India is WhatsApp’s biggest market and with over 400 million people using the ‘popular’ instant messaging app to get through these challenging times, it was only about time the company started to think ahead.
Days after Netflix, Hotstar, and other video streaming services decided to suspend HD streaming on cellular networks, Facebook-owned WhatsApp has also jumped in to do its bit to reduce stress on mobile internet during India’s 21-day coronavirus lockdown. India is WhatsApp’s biggest market and with over 400 million people using the ‘popular’ instant messaging app to get through these challenging times, it was only about time the company started to think ahead – about how ‘increased’ usage would potentially impact mobile internet.
First spotted by WABetaInfo, WhatsApp is now rolling out a new feature, or rather a limitation, to its ‘My Status’ option, to reduce the load on server infrastructure. The limitation being that WhatsApp users in India can share only 15-second videos as their ‘My Status’ now. Although WhatsApp doesn’t automatically trim excess footage, even though it now displays an error message saying “videos sent to My Status will be trimmed to the first 15 seconds” once you go beyond the limit, users won’t be able to share anything that goes beyond that stipulated figure. Users will be free to ‘manually’ cut short their videos to fit the new 15-second sharing format of WhatsApp.
Note that parent company Facebook is already cutting data traffic by either reducing the bit rates or by lowering the picture quality for videos–including on Instagram that it also owns–in India to reduce network congestion. WhatsApp now following suit isn’t surprising at all, considering its vast user base in India. It isn’t immediately clear if WhatsApp’s 15-second window for sharing videos on ‘My Status’ is a temporary thing like Facebook and/or Instagram, or if it would continue beyond the 21-day scheduled lockdown phase in India. More details are awaited.
Previously, the Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI), a body that represents major telcos Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea, had urged the telecom department and the home ministry to direct video streaming platforms–including Facebook which is also a big source of videos on the internet– to ease the stress on telecom networks at a time when more and more people were being asked to stay and work from home invariably resulting in a surge of data consumption. All video streaming services, thereafter, suspended high-definition (HD) and ultra high-definition (UHD) streaming on mobile networks to ease the stress on telecom networks – at least until the lockdown is in effect.