Finally, WhatsApp has introduced the live location sharing feature on its app. The 1 billion users on WhatsApp will now be able to share their location with their contacts.
Now previously WhatsApp had an option to share your location but it was static as you could share it only for one time. The new feature is dynamic. Friends on your contact list can track your current location even if you are not using the app at a certain time. Google Maps, Facebook Messenger, and Telegram already have this feature.
Zafir Khan, Product Manager at WhatsApp said, “Live location is a way to share your location in a chat and the participants in that chat will then be able to see your real-time location as it updates on a map. [It’s] short-term in nature, it’s limited in duration.”
Users will be able to share their live location on one to one WhatsApp conversation or a group chat.
How does WhatsApp live location sharing work?
If users click attach icon button, they will be asked to share their live location on WhatsApp chat. You will be asked for the duration of time till you want your share to be active. The options given will be 15 minutes, 1 hour, and 8 hours – and, optionally, add a comment. 1 hour is the default option. The options are given as per commonly used time period by people to share location.
At any time you can stop sharing live location option. Once you have shared the location it will be shown in the chats as thumbnails. It will display the location of users along with ‘Live until’ time. If you click ‘View live location’ you will be taken to a map where users sharing their location can be seen.
If you want to look at the location of a particular user, you can easily click the name of the user in list or profile pic on the map to zoom that location of the specific individual.
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Khan said “We hope that it provides utility in those scenarios where people are coordinating and meeting up in the real world. We give users control so they can stop sharing at any time and sharing a live location is just as secure as sending any other communications over WhatsApp in that it is end-to-end encrypted.”
As many other social media apps are offering live location service, let’s see how different similar WhatsApp service is compared to others.
It is quite similar to Telegram’s as for Facebook’s service only allows to share location for one hour at a time. iMessage of Apple allows sharing of location for an hour, until the end of the day, or indefinitely which is much better. Google Maps demand on location for their service. Location sharing in them can be used between 1 hour and ‘permanently’ and uses links to share the location.
WhatsApp will not make live location sharing permeant for now as Khan said, “For now, we are really focused on the short-term sharing use case. We think it addresses a lot of common challenges that people run into when they are in a chat scenario – we have no plans to expand that into long-term sharing at this time. However, this is software and we are always listening to feedback from users, so that’s something that we will continually evaluate.”
As for on questioning about live location sharing affecting battery of the phone, Khan said, “Our engineering team spent a significant amount of time optimizing battery and performance for this feature. We have special techniques to help conserve your battery when sharing live location. So it takes into account a number of different factors, such as how long you’ve been sharing your live location, whether someone on the other end who you are sharing with is actually looking at the map, your current battery level. We take into account these factors and several others to determine how often to get a location update from your phone because by being intelligent about that we can help conserve some battery,” he added. “We are just launching this feature so this will be something that we also continuously optimise over time as we get more usage of the feature.”
The service is rolling out on Android and iOS while it will be “globally available within the coming days”.
Khan concluded that “When we decide to build a feature, it has to solve a problem that is experienced by over a billion people. And the problem that we are 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 are sharing a commute or letting loved ones know you are safe, or meeting up with friends, these are experiences that are very common to us all.”