WhatsApp for web browsers was launched this week — but not for anyone with an iPhone or people using any browser apart from Chrome. But the limited features are likely a result of WhatsApp commitment to mobiles and privacy.
The Facebook-owned company announced this week that users could send messages from their PCs over the web. But while the feature is available for everyone on Android, BlackBerry, Windows or Nokia Phones, it wasn’t launched for iPhone and other browsers like Safari or Firefox.
Whatsapp blamed Apple for not being able to put the feature on iOS — citing “platform limitations”.
While other chat services like iMessage and Google Hangouts offer the option to sync accounts across phones and computers, they don’t have the same wide adoption as WhatsApp. iMessage is also limited to use on Apple devices, and Hangouts is much easier to use on Google’s phones, web clients and browsers.
As well as requiring Android and Chrome, WhatsApp on PC uses the network connection from the phone. That means that it can’t be used if your Android phone is out of signal, or run out of battery — two of the most helpful uses for being able to access the client on other devices.
But the limitations likely stem from two of WhatsApp’s key principles for the app: that it should always remain mobile first, and that communications should have end-to-end encryption so that they can’t be snooped on.
The way the web app works means that WhatsApp is able to make messages viewable on desktop without sacrificing its priority to keep things mobile. The web browser is essentially just a way of mirroring what’s happening on the app on your desktop.
“This means all of your messages still live on your phone,” as WhatsApp said in its statement — and it ensures that the web app stays as a useful utility rather than the beginning of any move to offer WhatsApp to non-mobile users.
The process is also likely to be a result of WhatsApp’s commitment to end-to-end encryption, though the company hasn’t said so. The slightly difficult way of linking phones to the web client, as well as the complications that exist when users have done so, are probably at least in part a result of WhatsApp’s commitment not to read users’ messages and to stop other people from doing so.