WhatsApp just went live with desktop calls – but it is not (yet) a Zoom or Teams replacement

WhatsApp has gone live with calls – both audio and video – from its desktop application.
But, for now, that is only for one-on-one calls, even though groups of up to 8 can already video chat using their phones.
The Facebook company has promised group calls on desktop in future, but hasn’t said when.
Your phone has to be online, but calls will be routed via the computer’s internet connection.
The service is not available via browser access to WhatsApp Web.

WhatsApp on Thursday turned on the ability to make and receive calls, either audio or video, via its desktop app on Windows 10 (64-bit version 1903 or newer) and MacOS (10.13 and newer).

But it will not be replacing popular video conferencing platforms such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams just yet; for the time being, calls from desktop are only available one-on-one.

Support for group calls will be added, WhatsApp said, but it did not provide a timeline.

Video calls featuring up to eight people are already available on the Android and iPhone versions of WhatsApp.

The WhatsApp desktop calling service is not available via browsers accessing WhatsApp Web, only via desktop apps that come to downloads of about 120MB on Windows and about 90MB on Mac.

On those, initiating a call is as simple as clicking either the phone call or video call button that now appears at the top of chat windows.

Your phone will require an active internet connection in order for calls to be established, WhatsApp warns, though the actual call will not be routed via a phone; it will use the internet connection of the desktop machine only.

As with WhatsApp calling from a mobile phone, a voice call can be converted to a video call with the permission of the other participant.

“Answering on a bigger screen makes it easier to work with colleagues, see your family more clearly on a bigger canvas, or free up your hands to move around a room while talking,” WhatsApp said in its announcement of the feature.

“We’re starting with one-to-one calls on the WhatsApp desktop app so we make sure we can give you a reliable and high-quality experience. We will be expanding this feature to include group voice and video calls in the future.”

It stressed that calls on desktop remain end-to-end encrypted, so that no other party, including WhatsApp itself, can intercept communication.

Facebook does not provide data on how many calls are made via WhatsApp. But announcing desktop calling on Thursday, WhatsApp said it had seen 1.4 billion voice and video calls on a single day, New Year’s Eve.

Zoom offers video calls between up to 100 people for free, but limits meetings to 40 minutes; for a fee it can handle up to 1,000 participants. Microsoft’s Skype offers calling to 100 people at once, and the free version of Microsoft Teams usually allows meetings of 100 people for up to an hour, though it has upped that to 300 people for 24 hours as a temporary pandemic response.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)