5 changes to WhatsApp that you should recommend to Mark Zuckerberg

Ever since its initial release in 2010, WhatsApp has come a long way from a being an ultra-simple messaging app to being the most popular messenger globally. Introducing audio messages, internet calls, material design, additional privacy options, WhatsApp Web and being acquired by the same company that had once turned down the job applications of its founders are some of the notable changes we’ve seen in the recent past. Although the App has been performing exceedingly well, I couldn’t resist the urge to audit its features and list few ideas that if implemented could, in my opinion, enhance the user experience. Have a look and decide for yourself. Over to you.

1.Polls in Groups: Let’s take a brief moment to contemplate how many times we’ve had difference of opinions on groups? Do we gift her a handbag or a dress? Do we buy a chocolate or a black forest cake for his birthday? Do we meet at Starbucks or Barista? Now, how cool would it be if WhatsApp were to introduce polls in groups? Yes, a voting feature wherein a user can ask a question and leave others with choice. Each members of the group will be entitled to a single vote and details such as the poll closure date and time etc. can be selected by the user initiating the poll. A small statistics counter can also be displayed which would show which user voted for which option and the number of votes received against each option. With such a feature in place, you have a clear idea as to which choice is favored by the majority (or whether we are divided on the choices). This way it’s a lot easier to achieve consensus on matters.

2. Group Privacy: Unlike the BBM messenger, WhatsApp does not require an invitation to initiate a chat. You just need the contact number of the person saved as a contact on your phone to initiate a chat. Similarly, if someone wishes to add you to a group, there are no frills. Two major issues pop up here: 1) Privacy of the members of the group is compromised as their contact number is visible to all other members of the Group. 2) You face difficulty in identifying the unknown members with their number (many users don’t set their full name in the Profile section). How can WhatsApp set this right? Here are some suggestions: 1) Firstly, give an option to users to ‘Accept’ or ‘Decline’ an invitation to join a Group, or 2) Introduce an option for users to appear as ‘Anonymous’ on Groups (of course if they choose to participate in the conversation on the group, their identity should be revealed) or, 3) Force users to give their full names in the profile section (restricting use of emoticons and special characters in the name field) and display only the names without their contact number.

3. Albums: Here’s a scene. You go to a party / wedding / lunch / dinner / get-together / outing whatever. Your pals who have high-res cameras on their phones capture some memorable moments and you dutifully ask them to share the pictures with you on the group. The result: lots of pictures flooding the group in lots of 10. Now how cool would it be if all those pictures were clustered? Grouped into an album? So that the next time you’re reminiscing those moments, you can simply go to that album rather than look through the hundreds of WhatsApp images in your Gallery just to find them.

4. Events: Like it or not, lot of events these days are being planned on WhatsApp. Be it birthday parties and surprises or a college batch reunion or a family get-to-together — There’s a group for everything. The big problem however, is not one; there are too many. There are few members in the group who would hardly participate, few who would spam the group with random forwards while the important discussion is going on, few who chat on anything but the event, few who unfailingly give an appearance to wish ‘good morning’ and good night’ at the start and end of each day. So how would you like it if WhatsApp announced a new ‘Events’ feature. Rather than creating a Group, you can create an Event. Members or Invitees should have the option to RSVP. In the ‘Venue’ field, the event manager or initiator should have an option to add choices for the venue (helps when you’re planning the event together). And the basic details such as the date, time, venue should be easily available, because most often, we have to go through lengthy group chat conversation just to figure out which ‘final plan’ is finally finalized.

5. What’s on your mind: When Brian Acton and Jan Koum designed WhatsApp, their intention behind having the ‘Status’ feature was to reflect the status of availability of the user. Having ‘Available’, ‘Busy’, ‘At work’, ‘Urgent calls only’ on the default list speaks loud and clear of this intention. However, seldom do we see users having these as their status. In fact, in general, it is anything but these. You have quotes, witty / motivational / romantic one-liners, emoticons, and what not. So what can you really do about this? WhatsApp cannot cast an obligation on the users to stick to these defaults (because most users would hate such restriction). So the best alternative is to change the nomenclature of the feature and name it something suitable — something akin to ‘What’s on your mind?’. Alternatively, they can retain the status with a restriction to choose from a long default list and add another feature like ‘What’s on your mind?’ This way they retain the feature of a messenger as well as give it a tint of a social network.

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