WhatsApp has finally launched its long-awaited and announced feature, Communities. It is being made available as we write this post explaining the key differences between WhatsApp Groups and Communities and how you can think about or use them. Some questions that came our way were how WhatsApp groups differ from communities, why we need both groups and communities, and some examples. Allow me to answer.
Table of Contents
What Are WhatsApp Groups
WhatsApp group is a common chat forum or chat room where everyone who has been invited or added to the WhatsApp group can chat in a single conversation. They can also share files, send emojis, and attach documents too. It is quite popular among users. Some examples of WhatsApp groups can be family groups, friends groups, society groups, neighborhood watch groups, etc.
What Are WhatsApp Communities
While WhatsApp groups have been around for quite some time now, Communities was recently released. Communities was designed to group similar or related WhatsApp groups into a single parent group. Think of it as an umbrella for similar groups. To take an example, I can create a WhatsApp community where I will house my WhatsApp family group and friends group. A school teacher can create a WhatsApp community and add Grade 1 to Grade 10 groups. A good way to keep everyone in the loop with respect to important announcements or emergency alerts.
WhatsApp Groups vs Communities: Key Differences
Now that we understand what exactly WhatsApp groups and communities are, let us take a look at some key features and differences between the two.
1. Hierarchy: Communities > Groups
You can add groups to communities but you cannot add communities to groups. WhatsApp communities is used to group closely related WhatsApp groups together.
Think of it like this. A house (community) with several rooms (groups) where different groups of people are holding conversations. Office (community) with many departments (groups) can be another example.
WhatsApp groups are used to stay connected with friends, family, and a group of people with common interests or goals. Local gym group is something most of us are familiar with.
WhatsApp communities is simply a collection of groups that are related or on the same topic. You can add your gym, neighborhood runners, and diet groups to the same community.
When you send out an alert or announce something in a group, only members of that particular group will see it. When you send out an alert in a community, all the groups and all the members within those groups will be alerted. A teacher can alert all grade students of the upcoming day camp.
3. Number of Users in Groups, Communities, and Announcement Group
At the time of writing this post, WhatsApp allows adding up to 1024 users to a group.
On the other hand, you can add up to 21 groups to a single community. That means, the total number of members in a community comes to 21,504. While that is impressive, it is still far behind Telegram’s 200,000 which is massive compared to WhatsApp.
Then there is the announcement groups that can be used to alert members of future events for example. Surprisingly, it can hold only 5000 members. It is not clear yet what happens to other community members in various groups or whether there can be more than one announcement group.
4. Admin Powers
The community admin gets some additional powers compared to group admins. For one, only the community admin can send messages in the announcement group. Group admins can’t make announcements.
Community admins can create, create new, or add pre-existing groups and remove groups to and from a community Again, community admin powers supersede group admin powers. There is a clear sign of hierarchy here. They can also invite, add, and remove members from any group. In fact, community creator and admin can remove members from all groups that are part of the community at once.
Community admin can make other members admins to help them manage the community. Group admins can make group members admins but only in groups where they are admins. Community admin can pick from any group part of his/her community.
5. Messaging Restrictions
A forwarded message can be forwarded to five groups normally but in the case of communities, it can be forwarded only to one group at a time. WhatsApp says they are doing this to reduce spam and misinformation.
Also, as noted earlier, only admins would be able to send messages to all and any members using the announcement group restricted to 5000 participants as of now. However, WhatsApp does note that they will be making ‘incremental increases to group sizes’ in the coming weeks and months.
Moreover, community admins can not only send but also delete messages sent by other members. Useful if someone sends a questionable message with hate, abuse, or malicious intent.
6. Privacy and Security Features
If you are a group admin or even a group member, you can view name, number, and profile photo of all group members. However, communities bring together a bunch of groups under a single roof resulting in unwanted exposure.
Fortunately, unlike groups, community members cannot view each other’s profile details like names and numbers. Note that community admins will still be able to view all members’ names and numbers but group admins can only view the profile details of their own respective group members.
Encryption remains the default standard for both groups and communities. However, WhatsApp notes that if any member is caught sharing abusive or adult content, he/she will be removed and banned. While that is good and a welcome move certainly to build safer communities, it also raises questions regarding encryption and how it is handled by the management.
WhatsApp group members can and should be vigilant and can easily report and block group members for spreading misinformation or sharing bad content.
7. Icon and Logo
WhatsApp has made it easier to quickly identify groups and communities. Groups have circular icons while communities have a square with rounded corners icon.
You will notice above that the announcement group icon has a blue background with a horn icon. Moreover, groups that are part of a community have this weird profile icon with multiple circles one on top of another. Definitely eye-catching.
Pro Tip: Here is an in-depth guide on what all the icons and symbols on WhatsApp mean.
8. Admin Forever
Admin of a WhatsApp group can make someone else the admin and then leave the group if he/she so wishes. However, the creator, also the admin, of the community is forever. He/she can neither leave nor can be removed from this position. Also, he/she can appoint group members as admins to help with managing the community but they can remove him/her either. There is no way to pass on the baton.
As noted in the screenshot above, when I try to leave a community I created, WhatsApp shows a pop-up notifying me that I can’t do so. I can deactivate the community altogether which will disband the groups within. The same goes for the announcement group where creators can’t leave it.
WhatsApp Groups vs Communities
WhatsApp Communities is a welcome feature and I can see schools, colleges, NGOs, and small and large teams taking benefit of it. Of course, professionals and companies would prefer a more robust solution like Slack or Teams, but WhatsApp communities will find their way into our daily lives. Communities is quite similar to groups because it was designed to sort or organize groups under a common umbrella with extra bells and whistles.
Want to learn more about WhatsApp privacy and security features? We have covered that in depth.