WhatsApp Introduces Live Location Sharing Designed for Short-Term Use

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WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, is giving its more than 1 billion users yet another reason to keep coming back to this app multiple times a day: live location sharing.

WhatsApp, naturally, already gives you the option to talk about your existing location with different customers, but that’s a static, one-time share.

“Live location is a way to talk about your location in a conversation along with the participants in that chat will then have the ability to see your real-time location as it updates onto a map. [It’s] short term in character, it’s limited in duration,” Zafir Khan, Product Manager at WhatsApp told Gadgets 360 while giving a presentation of the feature earlier this past week.

Your location is shared at the chat degree, which means you can share your live location in a one-on-one WhatsApp conversation or a group chat.

How does it function?
When you attempt to talk about your live location in a WhatsApp conversation – by simply tapping the Attach icon on Android, or the Plus icon to the iPhone – you will be prompted to choose the duration of time for which the share will be active. You may only select from one of the preset options – 15 minutes, 1 hour (default), and 8 hours – and, optionally, add a comment. Khan said that these durations were picked based on the common scenarios in which individuals are most likely to use WhatsApp live location sharing. Users may still choose to talk about a one-time, static location if they favor.

You may manually stop sharing live location information within a chat at any given time.

WhatsApp live location sharing is designed for short-term usage.

Live location stocks will show up in WhatsApp talks as thumbnails that show the initial location of the user and also a ‘Live until’ time. Tapping ‘View live location’ will take you to a map view where it is possible to see the present location of all the users who are currently sharing their location in that chat. It’s possible to switch to a Satellite/ Terrain view of this map if you desire, and also see live traffic data as an overlay, which seems pretty convenient if you’re waiting for someone.

It is possible to tap on a title on the list or tap on a profile picture to the map to zoom in to the location of a particular person at which you will also see the margin of error (such as “Accurate to 50 metres”) for their location.

In a WhatsApp group, you can bring up the group info and see all users that are sharing their location with the group at that point in time. This will be particularly useful in busier groups, as you won’t need to scroll up and attempt to find the message where the consumer originally shared their location.

“We hope that it provides utility in those scenarios where folks are coordinating and meeting up in the actual world. We give users control so that they can stop sharing in any time and sharing a live location is at least as protected as sending any other communications within WhatsApp in that it is end-to-end encrypted,” Khan said.

How does it stack up against the competition?
WhatsApp’s live location sharing implementation is really similar to Telegram’s, down to the choice of those three durations the consumers will need to pick from. Facebook’s own Messenger service enables you to select locations with customers in real time, but only for one hour at one time.

Apple’s iMessage lets you share your location with users to get an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely, which is great for sharing your location at any give time with family and/ or close friends.

This is what Telegram’s implementation of live location sharing looks like.

Google Maps – while not a messaging service, is possibly the app you’re most likely to be using when driving up to meet someone – added real time location sharing attributes earlier this season. Google Maps users may share their location with others for anywhere between 1 hour and ‘permanently’, though Maps utilizes links to discuss your location, which may subsequently be shared further with other people without your knowledge, raising privacy issues.

We requested Khan if WhatsApp has plans to add the ability to permanently share your location with certain connections, and he replied in the negative.

“For today, we’re really focused on the short term sharing usage case. We think it addresses a good deal of common challenges that people run into when they are in a conversation scenario – we have no plans to expand that into long-term sharing at this time,” he said.

“However, this is software plus we’re constantly listening to feedback from customers, so that’s something which we will continually evaluate,” Khan added.

Impact on battery life?
We asked Khan if WhatsApp users that actively use the new feature can anticipate an adverse impact on their phone’s battery life. He transferred to allay such anxieties.

“Our engineering team invested a significant quantity of time optimising battery and performance because of this feature,” he explained. “We’ve got special techniques to help preserve your battery when sharing live location. Therefore it takes into consideration a range of different factors, such as how long you have been sharing your live location, whether someone on the other end who you’re sharing with is really looking at the map, your current battery level.”

“We take into consideration these factors and several others to determine how frequently to acquire a location update from your phone because by being intelligent about that we can help conserver some batterylife,” he added. “We are just launching this attribute so this will be something which we also continuously optimise over time since we get more use of this feature.”

When can you get WhatsApp live location sharing?
Live location sharing is now rolling out to Android and iOS consumers and it will be more “internationally available within the coming days”. If you are using WhatsApp Internet and someone shares a live location with you, you will be shown a placeholder which will indicate that the live location could be seen on the phone.

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Khan believes the feature will find wide traction among WhatsApp’s large user base. WhatsApp has more than 1 billion daily active consumers, and over 1.3 billion monthly active users.

“When we decide to build a characteristic, it has to fix a problem that is experienced by over a billion people. And the problem that we’re looking at with live location is what you might call the rendezvous problem or the problem of meeting up in the real world. Whether you’re sharing a commute, or letting loved ones know you are secure, or meeting up with friends, these are experiences that are extremely common to us all.”

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