WhatsApp is finally pushing for the improvement of a key feature that even the Facebook-owned chat service acknowledges has been a top request from users for many years.
On Wednesday, WhatsApp said it was launching a limited public beta test for its improved multidevice capability.
The update allows WhatsApp users to use the service on up to four devices without a phone for the first time without the registered phone being switched on or otherwise connected to the internet. A WhatsApp spokesman told TechCrunch that this multi-device chain could not have another phone in it.
“Each companion device will connect to WhatsApp independently,”
To be clear, WhatsApp, which is used by more than 2 billion users globally, already offers support for the use of multiple devices. A user can simultaneously access the service, for example from a browser or a desktop app on the computer. However, the support flow for multiple devices currently requires the phone to be connected to the internet.
In WhatsApp’s own words:
By requiring the phone to perform all operations, companions are slower and are often disconnected – especially when the phone is poorly connected, the battery is low or the application process is killed by the phone’s operating system. It also allows only one companion to be active at a time, which means that people can not be in a conversation in Portal while, for example, checking the messages on the PC.
The new WhatsApp multi-device architecture removes these obstacles and no longer requires a smartphone to be the source of the truth, while still keeping user data seamlessly and securely synchronized and private.
In a white paper published today (PDF), WhatsApp has outlined how this feature works, giving an insight into why it took so long to send.
The company says it has developed new technology that ensures that messages are synchronized, even if they are on multiple devices, while maintaining end-to-end encryption, a feat that is currently rare in the market.
“To achieve this, we had to re-evaluate WhatsApp’s architecture and design new systems to enable a standalone, multi-device experience while maintaining privacy and end-to-end encryption,” the company wrote. “Each message is encrypted individually using the established paired encryption session with each device. Messages are not stored on the server after they are delivered. ”
The feature also does not change how WhatsApp uses cloud backups for users, a spokesman said. “The mechanism we use to synchronize messages and other app data across the user’s devices is independent of skybackups,” the spokesman added, pointing to the paper describing the protocol in more detail.
WhatsApp does not have a specific date for when it plans to launch this feature to all users. Instead, the company told us that it is basically rolling out this feature to its existing beta users. In the coming months, it plans to add it as an opt-in beta feature for a small number of users on stable versions of the app as well.
The mentioned feature is one of many that WhatsApp is currently developing. WhatsApp is working on a dedicated app for the iPad, in addition to expanding last year’s disappearance feature. The app, which currently allows users to set a seven-day timer on messages, plans to expand this feature so that users can share photos and videos that can only be viewed once.