WhatsApp could soon show you who is online now to encourage people to chat

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

WhatsApp could soon allow people to see which of their friends are online, to try and encourage them to chat.

The feature will show a list of people who have been “recently online”, according to tracking website WABetaInfo.

It is part of a broad change intended to “suggest contacts to chat with”, the website said. That would help start new conversations by showing people others in their contacts that they have not yet chatted to, for instance.

But new changes add the option to see which of those contacts have been “recently online”.

The update has been found in the pre-release versions of both the Android and iOS versions of WhatsApp, WABetaInfo reported.

The tool does not show everyone that is online at a given moment. Instead, it focuses on showing a snapshot of those who have been online recently.

WhatsApp has long shown “online” and “last seen” information at the top of a chat bar, which allows people to see when others are currently in the app or when they last opened it.

The company includes a range of privacy protections in that feature. Chief among them is the option to turn it off, either totally or for individual people, and turning it off means that it is no longer possible to see when others are online either.

It is also not possible to see when a user is online if you have not chatted with them before or saved them as a contact or if they have blocked you.