WhatsApp is once again in the news after it was noticed that Kashimiris (specifically, those people living in Kashmir) have started disappearing from group chats on the platform. Many users reported their concerns on social media given the current situation in the valley that has no Internet for over four months. WhatsApp has acknowledged the development in a statement to Gadgets 360, clarifying that the disappearance is due to the long inactivity of WhatsApp accounts. Some of the affected users are likely to permanently lose their account data, including chat logs, images, and videos, if they aren’t able to back up the data in 30 days from the deactivation.
Many people this week began reporting that their Kashmiri contacts were suddenly leaving their WhatsApp groups en masse. This struck them as strange since Internet services are inaccessible in the Kashmir valley thanks to a blockade since the night of August 4, raising the question of how they were able to access the Internet to leave groups.
“Suddenly all my contacts from Kashmir are ‘leaving’ the #Whatsapp groups, and their WhatsApp accounts are getting lost. Remember there is NO internet in #Kashmir from the last 4 months. What kind of sinister moves are these? @facebook @WhatsApp @UNGeneva @UNHumanRights,” wrote one Twitter user.
Some users speculated that WhatsApp deleted the accounts of particularly Kashmiri people. However, a WhatsApp spokesperson told Gadgets 360 that the sudden vanishing of the concerned users were a result of the company’s policy for inactive accounts.
“WhatsApp cares deeply about providing users everywhere with the ability to privately communicate with their friends and loved ones,” the spokesperson said in the statement. “To maintain security and limit data retention, WhatsApp accounts generally expire after 120 days of inactivity. When that happens, those accounts automatically exit all their WhatsApp groups. People will need to be re-added to groups upon regaining access to the Internet and joining WhatsApp again.”
“Kashmir contacts automatically ‘exiting’ from WhatsApp groups today,” one of the users posted while raising the concern on Twitter. “I know they would not have been able to see my messages anyway, but this is heartbreakingly symbolic.”
BuzzFeed News first reported the disappearances of Kashmiri WhatsApp users. The publication quoted some friends and family members who felt dismay due to the removal of their contacts from their group chats.
As per an FAQ listing available on the WhatsApp site, the instant message app completely deletes accounts that remain inactive for up to 30 days. This suggests that it is quite likely that many of the affected users in Kashmir may lose their account data permanently if they don’t activate them or at least back up their information such as chat logs or shared images or videos.
India is an important market for WhatsApp. The Facebook-owned firm has over 400 million users in the country as of July this year. In the recent past, it also used the India user base to test features such as payments and frequently forwarded label.
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Making It Easier to Shop and Sell on Our Apps
- Today we’re introducing Facebook Shop, a new place to discover businesses and shop for products in the Facebook app, and we’re expanding checkout on Instagram to all US businesses and creators.
- We’re also making Shops available to any eligible business and adding customization features, messaging and new insights.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the shift to online shopping has rapidly accelerated, with an estimated 85% of people worldwide now shopping online. We want to make shopping easier for people and empower anyone, from an entrepreneur to the largest brand, to use our apps to connect with customers and grow their business. That’s why we’re creating new ways for people to shop on our apps and providing tools to help businesses sell online.
A New Place for People to Shop in the Facebook App
Today we’re introducing Facebook Shop, a new place to discover businesses and shop for products in the Facebook app. Facebook Shop makes it easy for people to find products from businesses they love, discover new ones and make purchases, all in one place. We just started testing this in the US and we launched a complementary shopping destination on Instagram in July, called Instagram Shop, where people can discover and buy products from creators and brands, all in one place.
New Tools for Businesses to Create and Manage an Online Store
One of the easiest ways for businesses to showcase their products on Facebook and Instagram is through Facebook Shops. Shops makes it simple for businesses to set up a single online store that customers can access on both Facebook and Instagram. We launched Shops in May, and in the coming weeks, we’re making it available to any eligible business and adding customization features, messaging and new insights to help businesses measure results. We’re also expanding checkout on Instagram to all US businesses and creators.
These new features give businesses more control over how their digital storefront looks and make creating new collections easier. These include:
- New design layouts for featuring single products or groups of products in Shops
- Real-time preview of collections as they are designed
- The ability to automatically create Shops for new sellers
- New insights to measure results in Commerce Manager
Expanding Checkout on Instagram
In the coming weeks, all eligible sellers in the US will be able to start using checkout on Instagram. Checkout makes it easy for people to make a purchase in just a few taps, without leaving the app. To use checkout, businesses must have Shops and use Facebook Commerce Manager or our partners Shopify and BigCommerce. We’ll support more platform partners soon.
We’re also waiving selling fees for businesses through the end of the year to reduce the cost of doing business online, especially given the current economic crisis.
Connect with Customers Using Messaging and Live Shopping
Messaging through Shops combines the in-store experience of being able to ask a salesperson questions with the convenience of online shopping. Messaging allows businesses to provide personalized assistance so people can make more informed decisions about their purchase. The new messaging button on Shops makes it easy for people to message businesses through Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram Direct. Customers can view products right within the chat, making it easy to share products with friends and family to get feedback before making a purchase. We’re testing this feature on Messenger and Instagram Direct now, and will start testing it on WhatsApp soon.
With Live Shopping, we’re making it easier for people to shop in real time. We’ve been testing this feature on both Facebook and Instagram, and now Facebook Live Shopping includes new features to help businesses easily set up a live experience featuring products from their Shop and sell directly from the video. Instagram Live Shopping is now available to all businesses and creators using checkout in the US.
WhatsApp Wants to Make It Easier to Manage Space Taken by the Chat App
WhatsApp is reportedly redesigning the Storage Usage section of its chat app with a list of options to let you easily organise your storage and delete unnecessary files that were forwarded or shared through the app. While the messaging app is yet to enable the new storage tools for its users, a screenshot has been leaked online to give a hint at what’s cooking up behind the scenes. The redesigned Storage Usage section is likely to come to the WhatsApp for Android app in the coming days. However, iPhone users are also likely to receive a similar treatment at a later stage.
To give us a glimpse of the redesigned Storage Usage section, WhatsApp features tracker WABetaInfo has shared the screenshot that shows multiple new offerings in place. It has a storage bar at the top that offers details about the portion of space consumed by the media files shared over WhatsApp. Further, the screenshot shows a Suggested clean up option that lists forwarded and large files in a thumbnail view to help users review and delete them to free up some space.
WhatsApp was previously spotted redesigning its Storage Usage section with dedicated Large files and Forwarded files options in June. However, it appears that since the earlier design wasn’t that interactive, the Facebook-owned company may have decided to bring a thumbnail view to it.
The screenshot also shows that apart from the redesigning, the Storage Usage section would retain the existing view of listing individual chats – arranged as per their storage size. It also suggests a search functionality in place to let users search for any particular chat in the list.
WABetaInfo reports that the new features in the Storage Usage section are currently under development and are yet to be available, even for the beta testers. The screenshot shared by the site is from WhatsApp for Android app. However, it is likely that the iPhone client may also get the redesigning alongside its Android counterpart. Some changes may come into place over what has been seen in the screenshot as the development is yet to be ready for a mass rollout.
In 2020, will WhatsApp get the killer feature that every Indian is waiting for? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.