"A number of news organisations already have WhatsApp groups of editors, producers and reporters when covering stories, as often it can be more reliable than phones or web – this [development] could have a significant positive impact for such efforts," Barot says.
Chat apps are already being used in newsrooms around the world; last year the BBC used WhatsApp and WeChat to engage with Indian voters during their general election, and during the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan in the Phillipines to find potential sources.
Barot says the new service might now make it easier to distribute content to WhatsApp users.
However, there are still three key issues impeding WhatsApp's use in the newsroom:
- The clunky way users must subscribe to a WhatsApp service (by promoting a mobile number and then asking users to message that number inside the app to subscribe),
- The labour-intensive way each contact must be manually added to the phone’s address book and then moved into a broadcast list,
- And the fiddly nature of pushing out content from a mobile phone handset and managing all user engagement from a single mobile phone handset.
"The web version greatly helps with point three," says Barot. "The other two points remain and will currently act as a deterrent to most media companies from doing anything really significant on WhatsApp beyond the experiments that are already currently taking place."
In regards to source protection, Barot says there are more secure apps out there, though Whatsapp recently introduced end-to-end encryption, "So it is more secure than it was before."
The question is, will the masses leave Skype for this new invention? Whatsapp still doesn't offer the ability to make calls, which is what Skype is mostly used for, but Barot points out that: "To use Skype desktop you have to download a bit of software.
"Most company firewalls will block this, so it’s difficult to use the desktop version at work. There’s no such problem for using WhatsApp on the desktop though – as it’s just a web browser."
On Twitter, Barot has been commentating on #WhatsappForWeb's new features as he experiments:
— Trushar Barot (@Trushar) January 22, 2015