For the most part, the now Meta-owned messaging platform WhatsApp is unique as users are identified by their phone numbers. This makes for relatively unique usernames, but likely for the majority of people, numbers are not as easy to remember as names. With that in mind, it looks like the messaging app is working on adding proper usernames.
As WABetaInfo reports, WhatsApp is working on adding an option called “Choose my username” on users’ profile pages of the messaging app. Separately, TechCrunch has also found code referencing usernames in the latest version of the app.
Besides what is spelled out on the tin, it remains unclear what are the benefits of having a username in addition to the usual phone number identifier. WABetaInfo claims that this adds another layer of privacy for accounts, making it so that users can communicate with businesses within the app without exposing their phone number. TechCrunch notes that competing messaging app Telegram has already given users this choice.
Another benefit to usernames on WhatsApp is that it could also help users find one another without having to resort to numbers. Which may be fine if usernames have to be unique, though that presents its own set of problems, owing to the fact that the platform has 2 billion users. Otherwise, it’s probably more likely that users will get to use a combination of usernames and phone numbers to accurately find their friends. It will also probably help when organising chat groups, where strangers can identify themselves without exposing their phone number if they don’t want to.
This feature is currently hidden in the beta version of WhatsApp, so it may be awhile before it becomes available to the general user base. Though in terms of privacy, the most recent feature that was made available was the ability to lock chats.
(Source: WABetaInfo, TechCrunch)
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