Though seven years late to the video-calling party, WhatsApp has begun rolling out the feature to its billion-plus users. If you are on WhatsApp and would like to use the feature then you would need to run an update, open the chat and tap the familiar video camera icon on the top-right corner.
Video chat on WhatsApp is quite similar to the experience on other video chatting apps such as Skype, FaceTime, Facebook Messenger, or Google Duo: two faces, one in a smaller window, with a handful of small features for changing the position of the chat windows or turning the camera around.
That video calls took until November 2016 to arrive on WhatsApp reflects the app’s cautious — some might say glacial — approach to product development. WhatsApp launched in 2009, but group chats did not come until two years later, and voice calls did not come until four years after that. But 2016 has been unusually productive for WhatsApp, which Facebook bought in 2014 for $22 billion. This year the company introduced a desktop client, end-to-end encryption, and features for writing and drawing on top of photos. The company also wants to mingle its data with Facebook’s, so as to eventually make money from businesses chatting with you on WhatsApp, but European Union is putting its foot down firmly on that idea.
Last month at a tech conference WhatsApp’s co-founders were asked ifthey felt pressure to make an app renowned for its simplicity more complex to allow for the features that make competitors like Snapchat more expressive. CEO Jan Koum replied that he is trying to strike a balance — but that lately the balance has tipped toward adding new avenues for expression. If nothing else, the arrival of video calling shows that those avenues are now under construction.