Time to Say Goodbye? The Disadvantages of WhatsApp

Marque Pham
Marque Pham
Published: 30.08.2022

The little green WhatsApp icon is the calling card of one of the most recognizable and globally used apps. Now that we’re living in the ever-growing heights of a digital epoch, the flexible cross-platform application is an international powerhouse that serves as both an instant-messaging service and grass-roots information feed for millions. WhatsApp is written with Erlang, which is a code decreasing in popularity, especially when compared to the popular Python. Despite this, WhatsApp continues to be a world favorite.

Nevertheless, as with any well-oiled machine, there comes a time when we have to take a step back and do a critical assessment. WhatsApp, though popular, may no longer be the best choice for businesses seeking to improve their work communication structures. From its growing list of security breaches, weak data protection, poor web interface, and slow response to consumer needs, the disadvantages of WhatsApp grow stronger by the day.

A floating WhatsApp icon on a green background

Let’s take a clear look into the disadvantages of WhatsApp and work through the bias of familiarity that can cloud our judgment. Continue reading to understand the platform’s risks, limits, and compatibility issues to make sharper decisions for your business.

The History of WhatsApp

WhatsApp was launched in just 2009. This historical moment marked the app’s meteoric rise that many others would model and pit themselves against. Being the brainchild of two Yahoo! employees, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, there was little doubt that WhatsApp would go far. In 2014, WhatsApp was bought by Facebook for a walloping price of $22 billion.

Unfortunately, after the purchase, power struggles between Facebook and the original team would cause plans to quickly spiral behind the scenes and stray from the original concept.

Development of WhatsApp

Long story short, Facebook did not deliver on several promises. This has led WhatsApp founders and lead members of the original company to decry its practices. In a revealing interview with Forbes, Acton would reference nasty disputes and loss of trust during the Facebook transition. In fact, Neeraj Arora, who was the chief business officer of WhatsApp back in the days when it was independent of Facebook, has publicly expressed his regret and disappointment in making the deal with Zuckerberg in 2014.

In a condemning Twitter thread that spread like wildfire in the tech community, Arora detailed how the fundamental ideals that created WhatsApp are now marketing strategies, designed to retain consumer trust. After having come under fire for data mining and exploitative practices, it’s no wonder that WhatsApp has been amping up its public relations.

If your business has been geared towards maintaining and promoting consumer trust, we would recommend you proceed with caution.

The Good & Bad of WhatsApp’s Design

Despite the many internal transitions and legal chaos, WhatsApp’s public branding has stayed true to its founding vision and design.

On the official website, WhatsApp states: “More than 2 billion people in over 180 countries use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family, anytime and anywhere. WhatsApp is free and offers simple, secure, reliable messaging and calling, available on phones all over the world.”

WhatsApp’s branding focuses on simplicity, security, and reliability— particularly since it targets the casual consumer market and its demand for an easy, free way to connect with friends and family across the world. WhatsApp’s unassuming universality has made it hard to question its innocence.

WhatsApp is simple and familiar.

We like the intuitive UX design and user-friendly brand that has made WhatsApp the preferred messaging form for millions worldwide. Your 90-year-old grandfather could learn how to send a GIF for your birthday. We think this sort of simplicity is what makes it so accessible. The learning curve is rapid and a breeze to explain.

Let’s now take a look at the code that has made WhatsApp successful, as well as its pitfalls.

Erlang: The Lesser Known Code

Back in 2015, Erlang, WhatsApp’s code, was reported to be the key to its success. According to the report, WhatsApp required only 50 engineers for its 900 million users. It was Erlang’s unique ability to combine simplicity and high-scale infrastructure that kept WhatsApp at the top of everyone’s most-used apps. To this day, this has not changed, despite the creation of many alternatives.

WhatsApp is not iOS friendly.

Most of the add-ons that have helped cover WhatsApp oversights such as no auto-replies, dual-sim problems, and so forth have been relegated to only Android users. When there’s been a new gadget or gizmo to be enjoyed in WhatsApp, iOS users have always been second-priority. Over time, that may prove to be a problem for businesses based on iOS compatibility.

Failure to Expand

Despite the rapid and flexible code, WhatsApp has failed to expand in two ultimate ways: browsers and iOS compatibility.

Anyone in a workflow knows that it would be easier to stay on one gadget. Switching back and forth from laptop to phone to tablet could become a real nuisance. WhatsApp Web has been designed to keep you focused and highly productive. Keeping on brand, the idea is that WhatsApp Web can mirror your conversations from your mobile WhatsApp through the simple use of a QR code that you would scan with your phone. There would be no name, no number, or password needed.

Unfortunately, simplicity always has a cost. You need the mobile WhatsApp application on your phone for WhatsApp Web to function. Power, Wi-Fi, and/or data are always needed for WhatsApp Web access. If you’re running off to the office without your phone and only have your computer with you, there’s no alternative for gaining access to WhatsApp Web. A more common and more significant issue is that if your internet connection is unstable, this could require you to constantly scan the QR code every 5 minutes. This reliance on the internet connectivity of your phone could also cause a steep increase in your data usage and your monthly phone bill.

All of the above could be overlooked, if not for the reduced functionality of WhatsApp Web.

Compared to its original mobile app, it’s missing some key features, like the ability to delete and forward messages, along with the simple capacity of joining and leaving groups. It’s a marvel that although WhatsApp Web was launched in 2015, it has remained only available on Google Chrome since. Any loyal Safari users out there will have to bite the bullet and commit to more of Google if they plan on engaging with WhatsApp.

Unlike its competitors, WhatsApp Web continues to blur the line between private and personal. Since it connects directly to your phone, your cousin could send you pictures from his vacation in Greece and your mother could call you to ask if you’re coming for dinner, all while you’re busy locking down a key deal with your top investor. It’s all on the same app and there’s not even a way to archive it away for later.

It’s easy to see that WhatsApp Web is great for casual consumer use. If you were doing a casual remote work vacation somewhere in Bali, you probably wouldn’t have minded any group chats and messages popping up simultaneously on your phone and web. However, it lacks the rigor that professionals require in the workspace. We all can’t help, but be human sometimes; still, precautions can be taken to minimize distractions in businesses. Unfortunately, this is just not what we’re seeing WhatsApp Web investing towards.

It’s easy to get temporarily blocked on WhatsApp.

Naturally, there are a lot of unofficial add-ons and widgets that you can use to make your WhatsApp experience smoother, but WhatsApp does occasionally screen for this and will block you at some time for using third-party apps. Furthermore, due to its problems with spam and data security, if the app suspects you of sending too many messages to too many groups, this could provide grounds for a temporary ban. You could just be planning your wedding and sending out mass messages, only to wake up and face the inconvenience of losing access to your relatives and your clients if you use it for business.

Security of WhatsApp

It’s no surprise that the detractors of WhatsApp narrow in on its unstable security. From massive leaks to unsavory links to growing movements of disinformation and conspiracy theories, it is out in the open that WhatsApp has a lot to improve on this end. What better proof than to see how its competitors (Telegram, Signal) are honing in on this Achilles’ heel and distinguishing themselves as safer and more protected options in an era where a global pandemic has recently proven our extreme reliance on digital tools to stay connected. To add to the shaky reputation WhatsApp has in security, Acton, the founder of WhatsApp, created Signal, which is posited as a secure and more private form of instant messaging.

In fact, after the 7-hour crash of WhatsApp in October 2021, Telegram gained over 70 million users. After several high-profile violent lynchings in India and the explosive terror during the storming of the capitol in the United States, Facebook has been under fire for its complicity in allowing the rapid spread of disinformation that is shaping entire communities.

The historical eagerness of Facebook to monetize data and violate privacy rights casts WhatsApp in a shadow of doubt that is hard to climb out of.

Since WhatsApp is owned by Meta Platforms, it is US-based, and therefore subject to notoriously slack data protection laws. In 2021, it was slapped with a heavy 267 million dollar fine for not properly informing European Union citizens on how it uses their data in regards to its parent company. These frictions and tensions are ongoing as the EU continues to survey WhatsApp’s data practices. This has particularly escalated, since WhatsApp shared user data — such as phone numbers, contacts, and locations — with Meta Platforms. We’ve all known how much power Meta Platforms monopolizes, but the extent of it is worrying — especially when it continues to clash with EU data protection laws that may put the security of your business at risk. Many businesses are moving toward their own mobile app development rather than relying on existing apps like this one.

Though it currently features end-to-end encryption and continues to promise greater protection of data, the proven record of security faults in WhatsApp is enough to conclude that it may be time to relegate WhatsApp to talking with grandma and grandpa — not your business.

A phone showing WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal and other messaging applications

FAQs:

For more information, here are some frequently asked questions that may still concern you after reading. Read further to understand the advantages and disadvantages of WhatsApp, and whether it is the right tool for the success of your business.

Q1: What are the disadvantages of using WhatsApp Web?

WhatsApp is great for the casual consumer, but its web version is poorly built. The iOS compatibility is still limited and you are made dependent on your phone. This dependency on the phone mostly defeats the purpose of a web version. If you need a casual way for mirroring your messages on your desktop, WhatsApp Web might be for you. However, it’s not for professional businesses that want to have a reliable, customizable tool that can attend to the complex communication needs of their organization.

Q2: What are the positives and negatives of WhatsApp?

On the positive side, Whatsapp continues to be engaging. Due to its time on the top, it is managing to develop fun add-ons and supplementary applications to increase time on the app. Fun GIFS, customizable emojis, a sticker maker, and a variety of colors make WhatsApp relatable to generations young and old. Functionality is one thing. Aesthetics are another. WhatsApp knows half of the draw lies in the visuals.

As for its negatives, WhatsApp still isn’t suitable for businesses, and by the time it does take a greater initiative towards evolving its platform, there’ll be much better alternatives on the market with more qualitative data that would help build a better user experience.

Adding on to that, we won’t forget the increase of negative publicity and its flailing reputation in security. WhatsApp is just not the greatest social symbol of professionalism now, due to its numerous controversies and lawsuits from its parent company, Meta Platforms.

Q3: How secure is WhatsApp?

It’s not very secure. In late April of 2022, it was reported that there was a security breach of confidential national defense information involving military officials through WhatsApp. This was one of the largest scandals that WhatsApp had to face. However, this time it was in regards to espionage and national security, which are both highly punishable crimes.

Case in point, we all should learn from the mistakes of those before us and not trust WhatsApp with highly sensitive information or data. When a company’s founders denounce their original product and allegations of espionage crimes have been in the air, that should be enough reason for any business to back away from WhatsApp.


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