Messaging applications like Telegram, WeChat and others have usernames. You can search and add someone using their @username without ever having to know their phone number.
That way, a person’s privacy is maintained since one does not have to share their mobile phone number. I have been able to interact with so many of Techweez readers this way on Telegram and friends, brands and industry personalities on WeChat.
On WhatsApp, which is one of the most popular messaging apps in the world at the moment, things are a bit different. You need to have the other party’s phone number in order to chat them up.
That may change soon if what WhatsApp has been testing eventually leaves the testbed and is rolled out to everyone.
According to @WABetaInfo, an account dedicated to tracking changes coming to WhatsApp, WhatsApp has been testing a feature to make this possible. Since WhatsApp doesn’t have usernames nor does it allow its users to set the same, it will use something else: push names. Push names are simply the names one keys in when setting up a WhatsApp account either afresh or on a new device. One can find and edit their push names under the Profile section of WhatsApp’s settings on mobile.
Using push names, one will be able to search for users and begin a conversation. For instance, if you don’t have my mobile phone number, you can go to your WhatsApp search bar and type “echenze” and you will come across my profile and be able to engage me. This may or may not be how it works since the whole thing is not clear at the moment.
This feature may have several implications. Like, for instance, some may argue that there may be a privacy breach.
The feature has been tested on both Android and iOS.
WhatsApp is finally working on the mention feature (still hidden) in Android beta too, since the 2.16.164 version.
— WABetaInfo (@WABetaInfo) July 12, 2016
We’re likely to hear more about this once it hits the public beta channels.