WhatsApp has long relied on phone numbers as the only identity for accounts. Users need a phone number to create an account. Anyone in an individual or a group chat can see your phone number. This might be changing as WhatsApp is working on introducing usernames.
The latest beta version of WhatsApp’s app suggests that the company could introduce this feature in the future, according to a report from WABetaInfo. The report noted that the username section will be visible on the Profile page in Settings.
Separately, TechCrunch was able to confirm WABetaInfo’s report. We looked at the code of the latest Android app and found references to the username field.
It’s not clear what process the Meta-owned app might introduce for users to pick a username as there are currently 2 billion people using the messaging app. The company didn’t comment on the story and didn’t share any details about the feature.
WhatsApp’s competing messaging app Telegram has given the ability for users to hide their contact and show their usernames instead. Last year, Telegram also launched auctions for premium usernames based on the TON blockchain. It will be interesting to see how WhatsApp approaches claims for premium usernames and how it plans to protect them.
At the moment, WhatsApp users in groups and communities can see each others’ phone numbers. When this feature rolls out, the app will most likely let people hide their phone numbers from people who are not in their contact book.
Earlier this month, WhatsApp rolled out a new privacy feature that allows users to hide and lock individual conversations. These conversations can only be unlocked with a device’s biometric authentication or password.