WhatsApp Users worldwide have noticed a big change in the instant messaging application since it was bought by Facebook for a whopping $19 billion. Users are reporting that the “last seen” time-stamp on the application, which lets you know the last time a WhatsApp contact was online, disappeared Sunday evening.
Some Saudis have welcomed the change, saying it is great way of avoiding people they don’t want to chat with, while others complain that they can no longer know if their contacts have received their messages.
“This is a great advantage because I hated feeling like people were monitoring my every move. I felt like I was being watched by my friends, who knew exactly what I was doing and when I was ignoring them,” said Mohammed Salem, a banker. “I would often have people text and call me asking why I’m ignoring them or saying that they saw me online even though I said I was busy. Now, they can mind their own business.” SEE MORE AFTER CUT>>>
Shaimaa Jaffar, a college student, is critical of the fact that users can send a message or add users to their favorite list without being sent a friend request first.
“Sometimes, people you don’t know start sending you messages and photos and this is really annoying, especially if they are men,” she said. “The ‘last seen’ time-stamp is gone for now and we hope that WhatsApp will develop their application to include receiving requests from people who want to chat with other users,” she said. The last seen facility, however, helped Laila Al-Zahrani, a stay-at-home mother, catch her cheating husband late at night chatting with another woman.
“My husband used to pretend to go to sleep early, while I stayed up watching television knowing it’s the only me time I have with the children asleep. I would constantly see him online for hours, but whenever I would walk into the bedroom, I would find him sleeping,” she said.
“One day, it was almost 3 a.m. and I saw him online on WhatsApp and I walked in on him slowly only to find him talking to another woman. We have since separated. I can honestly say that this instant messaging service ruined my marriage,” she said.
The new update to the application has not been implemented on all phones in the Kingdom.
“I will not update my application if it will block the last seen facility. It is important for me to check on my children, family and friends,” said Huda Abdulkareem, a stay-at-home mother. “Call me a stalker, but it is very important to me to know whether my contacts have received my messages and whether they are ignoring me. For me, WhatsApp is a way of knowing who cares about me and who doesn’t,” she said.
WhatsApp introduced two new features for mobile users on the Android platform on Saturday.
The first feature will allow users to hide the “last seen” notification from either everyone, certain users or users that are not in their phonebook, said Bilal Hallab, general manager and head social business strategist of The Social Clinic, a Jeddah-based social media consultancy.
“This feature has been available to iOS users for a while. It is now included under the privacy settings on the WhatsApp for Android app,” said Hallab.
“The new features are currently unavailable for download on the Google Play store. A user can, however, download the apk file from the WhatsApp website. The minimum requirements are having Android version 2.1 or higher and an unlimited data plan. The upgrade is currently only available for mobile phones running the Android platform and not tablets,” he said.
“Many users have been facing problems with this feature, confirming that they cannot see their friends’ timestamps,” he said.
“WhatsApp did not make it clear that when you stop others from seeing your last seen, you, too, are no longer able to see theirs. When the green light is on, it means that timestamp is visible, whereas when it is in ‘off’ mode, that means that neither you can see their timestamps nor can they see yours,” he said.
Another undeclared point is that iPhone users will be unable to alter their last seen status for 24 hours after they have removed it.
Android, on the other hand, has no such restrictions and users can change the setting as many times as they want on the same day.
“WhatsApp has added another update, which allows WhatsApp for Android users hide their profile pictures and status updates from select friends, strangers or just about everyone. The new privacy tab will only be visible under ‘account settings’ after the new version has been downloaded