Already one of the world’s most popular means of communication, it seems WhatsApp now hopes to compete with services like FaceTime and Skype.
The app has officially launched video calling, and the feature will be rolling out its over one billion users worldwide on iOS, Android and the Windows Phone app over the next few days.
In keeping with WhatsApp’s data security standards, the new video calling feature will be fully encrypted, protecting calls from being listened into.
‘We’re introducing this feature because we know that sometimes voice and text just aren’t enough,’ the company said.
‘There’s no substitute for watching your grandchild take her first steps, or seeing your daughter’s face while she’s studying abroad.’
The move comes as privacy advocates worry about the potential for stepped-up government surveillance in the US under a Trump administration.
WhatsApp, which boasts more than a billion users worldwide, adopted end-to-end encryption early this year, making it technically impossible for the company or government authorities to read messages or listen to calls.
The new video calling service will provide another means for people to communicate without fear of eavesdropping though WhatsApp does retain other data such as an individual’s list of contacts.
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said in an interview that video calls will be rolled out to 180 countries within hours after the feature is introduced at an event in India.
‘We obviously try to be in tune with what our users want,’Mr Koum said at the company’s unmarked Mountain View, California headquarters building.
‘We’re obsessed with making sure that voice and video work well even on low-end phones.’
Mr Koum told Reuters improvements in phone cameras, battery life and bandwidth had made the service viable for a significant proportion of WhatsApp users, even those using inexpensive smartphones.
Apple offers its FaceTime video calls to iPhone users, and Microsoft’s Skype offers video calls on multiple platforms.
But WhatsApp has built a massive installed base of mobile customers and has been steadily adding more features to what began as a simple chat applications.