WhatsApp rolled out the new Status feature for its billion plus users on Thursday night. This is major feature update, and it adds to WhatsApp some sort of social media functionality that apps like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat, from where this feature is ripped off, already have. But then WhatsApp is not supposed to be social media app so we don’t know how the Status feature will be perceived, and used by users. From the early impression, it seems that WhatsApp status is a pretty neat feature. Unfortunately, it also ruins one of the most under-appreciated and yet useful feature — the good old Status.
When I updated WhatsApp today morning, I found that my profile status update that I had set a few months ago had vanished. It just wasn’t there. It was a simple text update, telling my contacts my status of the availability on the phone. It said, “Mostly busy. Please don’t call”. And it was primarily meant for a number of professional acquaintances whose calls I would miss because I was busy with the newsroom (yeh, newsrooms are very busy places). Although I still got many such calls because not everyone reads the WhatsApp status updates before calling someone.
Now, that status message is gone. But that is not the point. The point is that this good old Status feature was used by WhatsApp users to inform their contacts about something. Say for example, someone is on holiday. He or she will put up a Status saying that “travelling, don’t call” and hope that the message reaches people. Two weeks later, after back from holiday, the user would replace the status with something else. At the same time, I saw people putting up some other Status messages. Like what they are going through. What they are feeling. And similar other stuff.
The new WhatsApp Status feature means you are supposed to take only 24-hour holiday, can be sad or happy for only 24 hours, can be busy only for 24 hours, can be in love for only 24 hours, can fight with your friends for only 24 hours
This ability to tell your WhatsApp contacts what about your “status” is now gone, replaced by the new WhatsApp Status feature, which won’t let you set a text message as a status and won’t let you keep the “status” for more than 24 hours. In other words, this means you are supposed to take only 24-hour holiday, can be sad or happy for only 24 hours, can be busy only for 24 hours, can be in love for only 24 hours, can fight with your friends for only 24 hours. If you intend to be busy for more than 24 hours, you must tell WhatsApp and your contacts again about it every morning. Again and again. Daily. And you must do it with an image or a video.
The interesting part is that WhatsApp would have added the new feature without removing the older. The new feature is like the Instagram updates. Or the Snapchat updates. It is totally different from the kind of functionality and purpose that the older Status feature served. It was a benign, often out of sight, feature that was unobtrusive and yet useful. With the new feature the only thing it shares is the name. Everything else was different about it. yet, it has been given an axe. And that just doesn’t make sense from a user’s point of view.