WhatsApp feels like one of those rare apps that really knows what it wants to be, and has largely resisted unnecessary feature bloat. But with as popular as pandemic-induced video conferencing became, it was inevitable we’d see more of a focus on its video capabilities. The service is now testing support for 32 participants on a video call, but it’s not quite up at Google Meet or Zoom’s level yet. While it works on that, the call invite link sharing we first heard about last month seems to be rolling out to users at large.
Late last month, Mark Zuckerberg announced link sharing for voice and video calls, suggesting that its arrival would be imminent. It’s a few weeks later, but we’re now seeing the feature land, accessible on our devices. The option to generate a link for a new call gets pinned above your call log in the WhatsApp Calls tab. When you tap on it, you can set the call type (voice or video) and copy the invite link, forward it to contacts through WhatsApp, or share it using other apps.
Recipients can tap the join call button associated with the link and hop on the call. The implementation seems a little wonky, like how people you invite can join anytime, yet WhatsApp won’t notify you when someone does, but you aren’t there — the concept of a waiting room like other video conferencing apps doesn’t exist, and you need to actively be on the call to see who’s joining. Moreover, the app assumes all calls created with a link are group calls, even if you’ve invited only one other person.
Calls started or joined this way show up with a link icon beside the timestamp on your call log, making them easily identifiable. You can tap on the entries in your log to hop back on if the call disconnects, or if you want to reconvene with the same group of people later. We aren’t sure yet if the links you share have a built-in expiration date.
Link sharing for calls takes WhatsApp a step closer to becoming a full-fledged video conferencing tool for larger groups. However, it still has a long way to go before we rank it higher in the list of the best video chat apps.