WhatsApp cuts video status time limit in India to ease strain on internet during COVID-19 lockdown

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A Whatsapp App logo is seen behind a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone that is logged on to Facebook in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, 20 February 2014 Dado Ruvic/Reuters

WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world and in a country like India which is currently observing a 21-day nationwide lockdown, it serves as a platform for millions of quarantined users to not just chat with family and friends but also share quotes, images and videos via their WhatsApp status.

WhatsApp lowers video status time in India

WhatsApp users in India will no longer be able to post long videos in their WhatsApp status, as the Facebook-owned chat app has reportedly reduced the time limit for a status video from the previous 30 seconds to just 15 seconds now.

The move is said to have been taken by WhatsApp to lower the strain on the internet as a result of the unprecedented traffic on the servers during the coronavirus lockdown in the country, as millions of people stranded inside their homes take to their smartphones and begin chatting, video calling and sharing photos and videos via WhatsApp like never before.

The information comes from a tweet from WhatsApp features and updates tracker WABetaInfo which reveals that the instant messaging service has set the time limit for videos that are posted under the 'status' section. The report clarifies that the new shorter time limit for video status is applicable only in India.

The WABetaInfo tweet reads: "ANNOUNCEMENT: You can no longer send videos to WhatsApp Status if they are longer than 16 seconds: only videos having a duration of 15 seconds will be allowed. This is happening in India and it's probably an initiative to reduce the traffic on the server infrastructures."

Change is temporary

The change in video status time limit is being rolled out gradually for all Indian users, irrespective of whether they use WhatsApp beta or not. WABetaInfo assured that this is just a temporary measure and the change will be reverted once the COVID-19 pandemic situation eases.

It is still unclear whether WhatsApp would limit the total number of videos that one could upload or if it will just apply the time limit on a single video. If the latter is the case, then WhatsApp users will still be able to post a lengthy video but with more breaks in between - multiple 15 second clips of a single long video.

When WhatsApp launched the status feature, it allowed 90 seconds to three minutes if video to be uploaded, and If the video file was larger than 16MB it provided an option to trim the length of the video to make its size smaller before uploading. The limit was later reduced to 30 seconds.

WhatsApp usage skyrockets during coronavirus

According to a recent study by data, insights and consulting company Kantar, WhatsApp saw a 40 per cent increase in usage globally during the coronavirus pandemic, which also explains why the chat app has resorted to taking such measures, especially in India where it has more than 400 million users.

WhatsApp Status update

With more than two billion active monthly users worldwide, and about a quarter of the users coming from India alone, WhatsApp is more than just an instant messaging service in the country. It is a social media network in its own right. With features like status which it seems to have inherited from the Stories feature from its sister-app Instagram, WhatsApp lets users share text, photo, video and GIF updates to people in their contacts. The feature is available on WhatsApp for Android and iPhones and the status updates automatically disappear after 24 hours.

Similar measures taken by YouTube, Netflix and Amazon

This isn't the first instance of an internet company resorting to such measures to reduce the load on the internet. Earlier this month, YouTube reduced the default resolution of all its video streams to Standard Definition (SD) from High Definition (HD) in view of the lockdown and the resultant spike in video streaming by quarantined users.

Other video streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Video, and Facebook too have lowered the bit rates of all their video streams and reduced the quality of the video streams in order to control bandwidth stress that servers worldwide are currently facing due to increased consumption during the pandemic, so that the millions of people who are stuck inside their homes and rely on the world wide web for their daily work and entertainment needs, get their share of the internet during the lockdown.

Let us save the internet – (appeal)

These changes may be upsetting to a lot of people, but if you try to look at the larger scheme of things, you will realise that the ongoing global pandemic has left millions of employees the world over with no other option but to work from home. They use their home Wi-Fi or internet connection, which obviously won't be as good as the internet in their offices, and these are the people who work behind the stage of many important industries that keep the world up and running. The internet is also critical for millions of people who need to stream some TV or movies to keep their mental health intact. So, missing out on a long WhatsApp video status update or a high-resolution YouTube video, which consumes a larger internet bandwidth shouldn't really be a huge deal-breaker in these testing times. Let's just scale down our internet usage, lower the resolution on our YouTube or Netflix streams, share important bits if information rather than some silly TikTok video and let's save the internet go down cracking, (or rather "crashing") under pressure.

Related topics : Coronavirus