The iPhone is out in the cold

Why doesn’t the WhatsApp web browser version work for iOS users?

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The popular international messaging app WhatsApp has unveiled a web browser-based version of its service. In a blog post, the company announced that millions of WhatsApp users will now be able to chat on browsers (and their computers!) instead of just their mobile apps.

“Millions of” being the operative word. Millions of users aren’t “all users.” According to the logos on the desktop client homepage, the web application is only compatible with WhatsApp user accounts from Android, Windows and weirdly enough, Blackberry. A WhatsApp spokesperson later told me that Nokia S60 is also in the list.

For now iPhone owners won’t have access to WhatsApp’s desktop client. The spokesperson said it’s not available on iOS because “Apple has no background multi-tasking and no proper push technology.  So it is a bad user experience on iOS.” WhatsApp told The Verge that an iOS compatible version is coming, but “the timeframe is unclear.”

Furthermore, it looks like WhatsApp’s desktop web browser version only works on Google Chrome. When I attempted to access it from Safari, I received this message:

whatsapp message

WhatsApp told me that Google Chrome’s push notification system is ideal for the product, which is why the company picked it. It seems strange for an app with all the power of Facebook behind it to release its web browser before it’s compatible with iPhone and Safari.

WhatsApp told me, “It is a bad user experience on iOS and won’t get better until Apple addresses those [previously mentioned] things. So we didn’t want to keep this from other users to wait for Apple.”

Fortunately for the company, the app’s audience is largely international, and Android dominates the international market by far. Perhaps there aren’t too many core users left out from the development.


This story has been updated with information from a WhatsApp spokesperson.

77 Responses to “Why doesn’t the WhatsApp web browser version work for iOS users?”

  1. Why not create an OSX app and use Handoff feature (part of “Continuity,”) for iOS 8 – I think that’s absolutely a better option vs running a web server on your phone. (the only limitations would be proximity for Bluetooth and OSX). I think this feature has a lot of potential.

  2. The_Wolf

    That sounds a bit like cr*p. Windows Phone doesn’t support Background multitasking either (it freezes all the background apps until they’re opened again by the user), and still it works perfectly with WhatsApp Web. I’m not saying WhatsApp is supporting Google and Microsoft by purpose, but c’mon. Push Notifications seem the only “acceptable” matter right now.

  3. snokiedeath

    whatsapp is a bad user experience, period.
    we would have been better off if every phonemaker implemented a default IM client based on jabber or some kind of IM standard.

  4. Running a background web server on your android phone is a bad user experience….

    Your phone and whatsapp app must keep network connection and next to your web browser….. But I want to use the web client because my phone battery is empty……

  5. What people need to understand is that this webservice is actually hosted on the phone itself which you then connect to from your desktop and proxy the messages through. Sure there are chat apps that work fine on the iPhone because they come alive when ever a notification wakes them up. They aren’t actually running in the background though. But what you don’t have on the iPhone right now is a web server which runs at all times in the background. This is the limitation preventing it from working with the iPhone. It is possible to have a web server embedded in the WhatsApp app, it just will not stay up in the background for more than 8mins or so before going idle. I very seriously doubt we’ll ever see this work on the iPhone unless WhatsApp hosts the web service on their own servers for iOS users. I understand why WhatsApp took this route though. It takes the extra load off their own servers and puts it on everyones phones. There is actually an app very similar to this for jailbroken iPhones that runs as a webhost for proxying iMessages. It’s call “Remote Message”. So to all those uneducated Android fanboys that say that even on a jailbroken iPhone this app wouldn’t work are totally wrong. Services are very possible on jailbroken iPhones. I personally think Apple has it right though in regards to no multitasking. My battery life is very consistent unlike my experience with Android. On Android I remember saying, what the hell, %20!!! It’s only noon and I haven’t done a damn thing on my phone today. But I can assure you all the Android users will totally deny that their battery life sucks…… as they run for a charger.

    • My Android device IS running smooth and IS preserving battery.

      If you’re not a power user, then I believe it is rest assured to keep quiet :)

      Oh yes I know Android fanboys do butthurting about Android, but just let them be. They are retards. So if you being butthurted as well if someone mocks Apple, doesn’t that make you a retard as well? If you want a true argument, I recommend consulting an Android guru, which is a whole lot better than argue with average Android user.

      If you’re offended by this then I believe you read this in a third point of view.

  6. All the moaners should consider that this makes perfect sense from a business perspective. Chrome for desktop has a 61% market share, whereas Safari has 3%. Hell, you’d reach more customers supporting IE8 than you would with Safari.

    Same goes for iPhone. Android has an 85% market share whilst Apple users account for only 11%.

    Although it often isn’t obvious, Apple users are now by far the minority in global terms. Given that Apple make anything but (and often including) basic communication outside of their ecosystem an absolute pain in the rump to develop, this decision makes sense. Would you want to spend 80% more time/money getting this ready only to reach 10% more customers who insist on using a crippled platform? Probably not.

    • Follow the money.
      iOS users still spend more money than Android users.
      These “10 percent” (you’re numbers are way off) spend more money than the remaining 90%.
      That’s the case for What’sapp as well, and if What’sapp was still an independent company and not facebook owned, they would work harder on iOS features simply because it makes more money, exactly as they did before being bought by Facebook.
      Facebook has a different strategy here, and it has nothing to do with technology – they could have implemented this feature on iOS and Safari if they wanted to – they just don’t want to do that right now.

  7. There are plenty of chat apps that work fine on both iOS and Web. Whatsapp are pinning the lack of iOS support on Apple, yet they’ve come up with a solution which requires constant app backgrounding, direct connection to the phone and custom notifications via a Chrome plugin. It is misleading to try and paint Apple as the bad guys here for not supporting this quirky solution.

    If Whatsapp really want to grow outside of the phone, they’ve got a challenge as they’ve built the whole thing on the reliance of a phone number, rather than some form of centralised login system that can easily be scaled to other platforms.

    • JellyBane

      True, but it doesn’t matter that it’s based on the users phone number. Each device just needs to be authorized (i.e. like Telegram). This solution just seems like a cheap hack.

      The only reason I can see them going this route (and the reason Whatsapp painfully isn’t available on multiple devices) is because they don’t want to host any of the media, just simple make it available from the phone acting as a server…

      Facebook purely paid for a massive list, not the software.

  8. Ali Hussain Al Khawaher

    For the people commenting Why whatsapp cannot dot like the other is that whats app doesnt have cloud store for messages and this new browese feature just push the messages from the phone to the browser

    • Ok, Point noted. But apple has done something even further then just pushing messages, apple allow their users to answer carrier phone calls on yosemite when paired to an IOS 8 iphone.

  9. Christoph Zeller

    You must be kidding me, every other Messenger gets’s handled with the “not real multitasking” and the push service! Especially the Facebook Messenger can handle the running on every platform at the same time, wait who makes that Messenger? … Oh, it’s Facebook, YOU Guys who also own WhatsApp now. So come on get that software done ASAP and stop annoying us with excuses that even 3-Mann-Developers can handle!

  10. Are you telling me Facebook messegner and Line have done it with bad user experience because ios doesn’t have proper push notification and background task? The spokeman is just full of it

  11. “and weirdly enough, Blackberry”

    Why is that weird?

    Apple is a 7 year old OS, and a walled garden that probably makes doing this technically impossible on iOS. This is the price of Apple’s iron-walled garden.

    BlackBerry (even the old, pre-BlackBerry 10 phones) are much more open than iOS.