AfterDawn: Tech news

WhatsApp sucks - Here's what they should fix

Written by Petteri Pyyny @ 05 Apr 2018 11:00

WhatsApp sucks - Here's what they should fix

WhatsApp is the de facto messaging app in most countries around the world. Only the United States, Canada and handful of other countries prefer Facebook Messenger over WhatsApp. In China, WeChat is the king, but for the rest of the world WhatsApp is the number one messaging app.
Alright, headline might be overstating the issues. WhatsApp doesn't suck, it is actually a brilliant little app. But it has problems that frustrate a lot of its users.

It is naive to think that people could simply switch to a better platform. Forcing all your relatives, coworkers, etc to switch to something else is next to impossible, when they also have their relatives, coworkers, and friends using the same app.

Thus, it is better to think what are the biggest problems with WhatsApp and hope that Facebook - who owns WhatsApp - does something about those issues.

So, my two cents on what I think are the biggest problems with WhatsApp:

Platform lock-in

While you are free to transfer almost all data between Android and iPhone nowadays, WhatsApp is the huge, even monstrous, exception to that rule. There's simply no reasonable way to move your thousands, even hundreds of thousands of WhatsApp messages from iPhone to Android and vice versa.

So, if you're a big time WhatsApp user and don't want to lose your digital history, you're stuck with the mobile operating system you're currently using.

Forced resize of images

For many, WhatsApp is also a way to share pictures with your friends and family. Thus, our picture collections often include hundreds or even thousands of images we've received through WhatsApp. Now, the problem is that WhatsApp reduces the size and quality of those images quite dramatically. Sure, this is good for those who have capped data plans, but for those who are on truly unlimited data plans, this is an annoyance.

A simple option in settings that would allow receiving full quality pictures would solve this matter for those who prefer to get the pictures in their full glory.

Search is horrible

Sure, if you are a small time messaging user, you might not have encountered this problem. But when you have a discussion history with someone that contains, say, 100,000 messages or more, you'll understand this problem.

Searching through a massive message history is extremely slow, even on latest and most expensive phones. It is so slow that your phone might tell you that WhatsApp has stopped working - when in reality, it is still searching for that specific word in your search history.

Considering that searching through a database should be a snappy experience, this simply highlights how badly the inner design of WhatsApp message history has been created.

Furthermore, the search doesn't have any filters available - you might want to search for a specific message sent in certain date, but with WhatsApp, you cannot set date limits for searches. And yes, you cannot limit the search to specific participant in discussion (say, you're searching for a message you sent yourself, but the search goes through both yours and the other party's messages).

Size of groups is limited

WhatsApp groups are an excellent tool for many purposes - colleague hangout, family conversation, etc. But something more generic, like hobby groups, groups for a specific online game, etc suffer from WhatsApp's fixed limit on members: group can have maximum of 256 members in it. This has sparked several online communities to switch to alternatives once the limit has been reached.

Final words

All in all, WhatsApp is the most important communication tool for over a billion users and has largely replaced SMS - and to a lesser extend, many other forms of communication. It is naive to assume that all those users would jump ships if some other tool would provide small improvements over existing functionality. Therefor, it is best just to keep asking Facebook to improve WhatsApp and hope that they deliver.

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