WhatsApp now lets you stream videos without downloading them

Posted Nov 23, 2016 by James Walker
Messaging platform WhatsApp has begun to rollout a new feature that makes it easier to watch videos from within its app. Clips no longer have to be downloaded before they are viewed so you can start streaming a video within a few seconds of tapping play.
Logo of WhatsApp  the popular messaging service bought by Facebook for $19 bn  seen on a smartphone.
Logo of WhatsApp, the popular messaging service bought by Facebook for $19 bn, seen on a smartphone.
Stan Honda, AFP
The addition resolves a longstanding complaint about how WhatsApp manages videos shared using its app. When a video is sent to a friend, it is uploaded to WhatsApp's servers for distribution. The recipient can then tap the video to play it. Unlike other services, the clip downloads in its entirety before playback begins, wasting data if only a small section is required and consuming storage space.
These archaic limitations are removed with the new update. As long as you have a network connection, you can now stream videos sent in messaging chats from WhatsApp's servers. Playback begins mere seconds after tapping play. The video loads in a similar fashion to content on providers like YouTube and Facebook. It still downloads in the background but can be played before all the data is buffered.
If media auto-downloading is enabled in WhatsApp's settings, new videos in a thread will begin to download as soon as they arrive. This will be indicated by a progress bar being overlaid on the video preview and is not new functionality.
What's changed is the behaviour around tapping the play button while the download is in progress. Unlike before, WhatsApp will begin to play the video as the rest of the content buffers, making it much quicker to start watching. If media auto-downloading is turned off, the video will not be automatically downloaded but will still be available to stream.
According to Mashable, the feature is rolling out to users of WhatsApp's Android app in India right now. It should become available in more regions and on iOS and Windows over the next few weeks. The streaming functionality has been welcomed by users who frequently share videos on WhatsApp.
Video streaming is the second video feature to come to WhatsApp this month. Last week, the company officially launched video calling across all supported platforms, introducing its own take on face-to-face communication. Available on iOS, Android and Windows, the feature allows you to make end-to-end encrypted video calls with other WhatsApp users.
Combined with video calling, the new streaming feature helps to turn WhatsApp into a more video-friendly platform. This is important to parent company Facebook which views video as vital to the future of online media. The company is also preparing some additional new features for WhatsApp, including a new "Status" screen that resembles Snapchat Stories and Facebook's own Instagram Stories.