WhatsApp users are about to get another new way to liven up their chats.
The hit messaging app, which has over a billion users worldwide, has become hugely popular thanks to its simple interface and colourful emojis.
Users have also long been able to customise the look and feel of their app, allowing for different backgrounds and wallpapers for different chats, as well as custom ringtones and alerts.
But one of the most personal parts of WhatsApp has remained remarkably dull and basic – until now.
In order to mark WhatsApp’s 8th birthday on February 24th, the app is rolling out a new feature that will allow users to express themselves better via their status.
The status feature has typically been viewed as an optional extra in WhatsApp, having not changed too much from when WhatsApp originally launched back in 2009.
Users are currently able to set their own message, or choose from a number of pre-set alternatives such as “At Work” or “Available”.
From this Friday, however, WhatsApp says it is reinventing the status feature to allow users to start sending photos and video to their friends.
Similar to apps such as Snapchat or Instagram Stories, the new Status will let broadcast clips including images and GIFs, which can be customised further with emojis and annotations with text scribbling.
New updates will be shown when users open up WhatsApp, separate from existing conversations in a new Status tab.
Your friends can react to a Status by tapping on ‘reply’ – with the response sent as a new WhatsApp message.
The updates will disappear after 24 hours, with WhatsApp stressing that all are fully encrypted end-to-end.
WhatsApp says that the addition is a reaction to changes in how people are using the app.
“When WhatsApp launched nearly 8 years ago (on Feb. 24th), it started as an app for sharing status updates, where people could type a short line of text to let their friends know what they were up to,” the company said in a blog post.
“When we noticed people were using the feature to communicate in real time, we redesigned WhatsApp as a messaging app.”
“This new and improved status feature will let you keep your friends who use WhatsApp easily updated in a fun and simple way,” WhatsAppp CEO Jan Koum added.
The launch is the latest new WhatsApp feature released in the last few weeks.
It comes days after Android users were able to enjoy hundreds of new WhatsApp emoji as part of a major update.
The update included a facepalm, selfie, pregnant woman, a mother and a son, and a father with two kids, as well as a number of new gender diversity and sexuality options, with female versions of many jobs, sports and activity emoji that had previously only had a male symbol.
There is also a new rainbow flag emoji, along with a number of same-sex couple icons.
WhatsApp can now play any video received in a chat right away, without needing to wait for it to download first.
Videos will still be downloaded to your phone, which will occur in the background, but this update means there’s no need to hold on to start watching.
Also included is animated GIF support, allowing Android users to send and receive GIFs for the first time, and improvements to WhatsApp video calling.