WhatsApp launches New Feature With Live Location Sharing


  • WhatsApp live location sharing is designed for short-term use
  • You can share your location with an individual or in a group chat
  • It’s rolling out now to Android and iOS users
Whatsapp is well known to try various features on their app and actually succeed. Starting with the blue ticks to the weird ass emojis in the recent update, they have impressed us and also let us down sometimes. Whatsapp the Facebook-owned messaging service app has over 1billion downloads on the Play store with over 1.3 billion monthly active users.

According to WhatsApp’s official blog, the new update will be pushed out as an update globally for Android and iOS users within the coming weeks. Despite being available on various other platforms like Messenger, Google Maps, Telegram etc. the feature might actually gain traction with a huge amount of users.

How to use the new feature?

The feature can have a wide range of use. According to the company’s official blog, it can be used for “meeting up with friends, letting loved ones know you’re safe, or sharing your commute.” When a user willingly shares their live location, they will get an option to chose between various time frames for the live tracking to last.

For instance, if a person needs to meet-up at an X cafe, they can share their location with the person they’re meeting for a duration of 15 minutes or one hour eradicating the need to send constant updates. A user can also choose a longer duration which is eight hours. So far, the company has limited the time to 8-hours and has refused to any plans of extending this duration.

The new feature can be accessed by tapping on the paperclip icon next to the chat box. Since the location can be shared in the form of chat, it can be sent to WhatsApp groups as well as individual chats. To keep a track of how many people or groups are getting the live location updates, one can check in the Account Privacy settings. In terms of WhatsApp groups, if various participants have shared their live location, all locations will be visible on a single map.

Once the location is shared, the users who receive it will get a chart showing the initial location as a thumbnail followed by the time till when the live location can be accessed. The sender can stop sharing their live location for any given instance within the chat or in the application’s Account Privacy settings. According to WhatsApp, the feature is end-to-end encrypted, ensuring the privacy of the location shared.

The new live location feature will open an array of uses in a daily chat scenario and also has a great potential of becoming the go-to safety feature for most WhatsApp users. On the other hand, all those lies about leaving their house on time might have to steer away from this new feature.

How does it stack up against the competition?
WhatsApp’s live location sharing implementation is pretty similar to Telegram’s, down to the choice of the three durations the users need to pick from. Facebook’s own Messenger service lets you choose locations with users in real time, but only for one hour at a time.

Apple’s iMessage lets you share your location with users for an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely, which is great for sharing your location at any given time with family and/ or close friends.

Google Maps – while not a messaging service, is perhaps the app you are most likely to be using when driving up to meet someone – added real time location sharing features earlier this year. Google Maps users can share their location with others for anywhere between 1 hour and ‘permanently’, though Maps uses links to share your location, which can then be shared further with others without your knowledge, raising privacy concerns.

We asked Khan if WhatsApp has plans to add the ability to permanently share your location with certain contacts, and he replied in the negative.

“For now, we are really focused on the short-term sharing use case. We think it addresses a lot of common challenges that people run into when they are in a chat scenario – we have no plans to expand that into long-term sharing at this time,” he said.

“However, this is software and we are always listening to feedback from users, so that’s something that we will continually evaluate,” Khan added.

Impact on battery life?
We asked Khan if WhatsApp users who actively use the new feature can expect an adverse impact on their phone’s battery life. He moved to allay such fears.

“Our engineering team spent a significant amount of time optimising battery and performance for this feature,” he explained. “We have special techniques to help conserve your battery when sharing live location. So it takes into account a number of different factors, such as how long you’ve been sharing your live location, whether someone on the other end who you are sharing with is actually looking at the map, your current battery level.”

“We take into account these factors and several others to determine how often to get a location update from your phone because by being intelligent about that we can help conserve some battery,” he added. “We are just launching this feature so this will be something that we also continuously optimise over time as we get more usage of the feature.”

When can you get WhatsApp live location sharing?
Live location sharing is now rolling out to Android and iOS users and it will be “globally available within the coming days”. If you are using WhatsApp Web and someone shares a live location with you, you will be shown a placeholder that will indicate that the live location can be seen on the phone.

Khan believes the feature will find wide traction among WhatsApp’s large user base. WhatsApp has over 1 billion daily active users, and over 1.3 billion monthly active users.

“When we decide to build a feature, it has to solve a problem that is experienced by over a billion people. And the problem that we are looking at with live location is what you might call the rendezvous problem or the problem of meeting up in the real world. Whether you are sharing a commute or letting loved ones know you are safe or meeting up with friends, these are experiences that are very common to us all.”

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