The messaging app already has more than a billion users, including plotters against Jeremy Corbyn and Boris Johnson. It is changing the way we communicate – and its level of encryption would make the FBI weep
There is something reassuringly traditional about the neatly typed resignation letters, with a House of Commons letterhead and an attack on the Labour leader within. They are solid and permanent, when everything else seems to be falling apart. And old-fashioned, even if one does tweet a picture of it afterwards, as many MPs have done. But according to reports, those conspiring against Corbyn were far more modern. They used the messaging service WhatsApp. And it wasn’t just Labour. There was thought to be at least one WhatsApp group of Conservative MPs exploring ways to stop Boris Johnson becoming leader. Gone are the days of machinations in back rooms and hushed conversations in corridors; the leaders of the two main political parties could be decided on a mobile app more often used by teenagers wondering where to go on a Saturday night.
If you don’t already use WhatsApp, you probably soon will. A few months ago, WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, went past its billionth user, and it will get bigger (“We still have another 6 billion people to get on WhatsApp,” the company wrote in a blogpost). Last year, it delivered more messages than traditional SMS text messages. Since 2010, it has been possible to make voice calls from WhatsApp, which could, predict some tech watchers, spell the end of mobile networks such as Vodafone or O2. It probably won’t be long until we can use video calling on it, too; but for now it remains primarily a texting service, only better. Messages are sent over the internet and it is efficient and easy to use. You can message one-on-one, or set up a group in your phone contacts list – family, say, or friends. Or Labour politicians. Among my groups are different bands of friends, two British family groups and a Turkish one, and a group of old housemates.