After receiving an iOS 8 focused update earlier this month bringing a nice Share menu extension, Interactive Notifications and other improvements, Viber on Tuesday pushed a small update adding the Public Chats feature.
With Public Chats, Viber users can finally follow group conversations for specific topics that they’re into. Once you start following a group chat, you can then like any piece of content in the group chat, including messages, photos, videos, links and more.
Viber’s FAQ defines a Public Chat as a place where one or more people can send messages to each other that anyone can see. “Public Chats can be about anything – a local community group, a TV show, or even your favorite sports team,” reads the document.
Whereas a group chat is a private conversation between a group of participants that no one besides the participants can see, a Public Chat can be seen by anyone who chooses to follow it.
A Public Chat can have up to 99 participants. Anyone that follows a Public Chat can see its messages, but not contribute to the Chat. “To become a participant, you must be added by a participant of that Chat,” notes the FAQ.
As for privacy, only other participants in your Public Chat can see your information. Note that followers can’t see anyone’s personal information, including yours.
As such, Public Chats are meant to be used by celebrities and established writers such as blogger Perez Hilton, YouTuber Tyler Oakley, musician Pixie Lott, DJ Paul van Dyk, fashion company Next Model Management and football channel COPA90, which all participate in the more than 300 individual public chats available on Viber.
Each discussion has its own custom URL allowing anyone to join it. The most popular Public Chats get featured in Viber’s Public Chats section. To start your own Public Chat, you’ll need to drop Viber a line at email@example.com.
The feature was first announced by Viber CEO Talmon Marco at a launch event a week ago. Aside from Public Chats, Viber 5.1.1 contains no other new features, improvements or bug fixes.
The previous refresh brought out full support for headline iOS 8 features, including a slightly revamped interface and the ability to interact with activity alerts directly from the notification and share content from other apps using Viber’s handy new Share extension on iOS 8.
Viber, now owned by Rakuten, has 460 million registered users and 210 million monthly active users around the world. By comparison, rival WhatsApp, now owned and operated by Facebook, claims more than 600 million monthly active users.
Unlike WhatsApp, Viber does both video and VoIP calling. WhatsApp originally promised to roll out voice calling this year, but recently changed its mind and delayed the feature into early-2015.
Download Viber 5.1.1 for free in the App Store.