"We are pleased to introduce WhatsApp channels, a simple, reliable and private way to receive important news from people and organizations on our platform," the subsidiary of Meta (Facebook, Instagram) announced Thursday in an online statement.

This new feature will first be tested in Singapore and Colombia, before being rolled out in other countries.

Users will be able to find the channels they are interested in in a separate tab, called "News", separate from discussions with their contacts and groups.

Channel administrators will not be able to add subscribers. They will communicate "one-way", sending messages, photos, videos, stickers and polls.

Meta said the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and football teams FC Barcelona and Manchester United will be among the partner organizations.

This new service should allow the Californian group to revive ultra-popular messaging in some regions of the world (especially in Africa and Latin America) but much less in the United States, in particular.

The social media giant has gone through a difficult 2022, including the first decline in advertising revenue since its IPO in 2012.

The channels will allow it to offer brands a new way to communicate with consumers.

On the security and privacy side, subscribers will not see the phone numbers of other people in the audience, and their channel choices will be private. Published content will disappear after 30 days.

"WhatsApp channels will aim to become the most secure public message delivery feature and continue to offer a level of privacy that meets the expectations of users of the application," the company said.

But "the goal of channels is to reach a large audience," they won't be encrypted by default like private conversations are, she added.

However, Meta plans to offer end-to-end encryption of chains in some cases, for non-profit or health associations for example.

This type of encryption ensures that messages can only be read by the sender and recipient, to the regret of authorities in many countries.

WhatsApp, bought by Facebook in 2014, has built its reputation on this operation, like Signal and Telegram, rival messengers.

© 2023 AFP