WhatsApp begins testing an in-app local business directory

WhatsApp is piloting a new feature that lists local small businesses in a searchable directory for users looking for local businesses and services.

In a Tweet last week, WhatsApp chief Will Cathcart announcement that the company is piloting a new business directory feature that allows users to find local stores and services on the app. The pilot program is expected to begin experimental launch in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Related | WhatsApp will soon allow you to hide your online status from certain contacts

The announcement posts screenshots of the upcoming directory, which show how WhatsApp will sort ” Shops nearby “ by category. As mentioned in a recent Reuters report, the company will list thousands of businesses in the Brazilian capital – the first time WhatsApp has offered users a way to search for local businesses in its app.

In recent years, the Facebook-owned messaging service has seen significant growth in the popularity of its business account service, with WhatsApp Business accounts reaching 175 million daily users globally last year.

Since launching the standalone app in 2018, the messaging company has increasingly refined the experience, expanding support for product catalogs, shopping carts, and even in-app payments in select countries.

However, the growth of the service has also led to the controversial and much-criticised update to the privacy policy earlier this year, where the updates were interpreted as pulling information from peer-to-peer discussions on the app, by opposition to conversations with companies.

It is probably in the light of these events that Cathcart States in the announcement that WhatsApp does not record users’ location or the businesses they browse when using the new directory feature.

The pilot program is currently limited to the city of Sao Paulo in Brazil – although the company says India and Indonesia could be the next potential candidates for future expansion of the feature.

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