Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg today announced that its Portal smart displays will soon support WhatsApp video calls. All video calls will now come with end-to-end encryption.
“So now you can be sure that when you’re having a conversation with your friends and family everything stays between you,” Zuckerberg said onstage at Facebook’s F8 developer conference.
WhatsApp video calls will be available on Portal devices starting this fall, Facebook Portal head Ryan Cairns told VentureBeat.
The move brings WhatsApp, a chat app with more than one billion daily active users, to Facebook’s Portal smart display, which competes with Amazon’s Echo Show and Google’s Home Hub.
Portal and Portal +, Facebook’s first consumer device made in house, made their debut last October for Facebook Messenger video calls and interaction with Amazon’s Alexa.
Zuckerberg also said Portal will be available in more countries soon, with sales beginning in Canada in June and a number of European countries this fall.
A number of other updates were announced today for Portal as well, including plans to launch a Portal mobile app in the next few weeks that lets users add photos directly from phone to screen.
The idle screen that currently only flickers through Facebook friends photo updates starting today will support Instagram photos, and Storytime for reading to kids with augmented reality will get new characters soon like Pete the Cat.
You’ll also soon be able to say “Hey Portal, good morning” to get daily updates on friend activity, and the ability to send private video messages to friends, or launch Facebook Live.
Flash briefings, smart home control, and Amazon Prime video are also also coming to the Alexa experience with Portal.
Support for instant games and a web browser were added late last year.
At launch, Portal was limited in its access to virtually all Facebook offerings, and most notably still does not include Facebook Stories and WhatsApp Status, both of which have hundreds of millions of daily users.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced earlier this year that Facebook plans to combine and encrypt messages between Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp in the years ahead. With each garnering more than a billion monthly active users, they are three of the most-used messaging apps on Earth.
Zuckerberg spent the first minutes of the keynote address today at Facebook annual developer conference F8 discussing the future of privacy for social media, declaring “The future is private,” and that this future is reliant first and foremost on Facebook’s messaging apps.
Zuckerberg described features like Facebook and Instagram Stories as core to the evolution of the social media company toward smaller groups, private messaging, and more focus on Stories, which he characterizes as more ephemeral and privacy protected than public posts.
Other changes announced today likely to come to Portal include the ability to watch videos together with friends in group calls or chats with Facebook Messenger, as well as a Friends tab for the app that shows Stories from friends using other Facebook apps.
Portal users today can do things together during calls such as listen to Spotify music or read children’s stories with augmented reality special effects.
Privacy has become of particular concern at Facebook, a company that has repeatedly suffered self-inflicted wounds and failed to safeguard user data, such as by sharing the email contacts of 1.5 million users and exposing up to 600 million user passwords last month.
Additional changes could be on the way for Portal.
Earlier this month news emerged that Facebook is reportedly developing an AI assistant to take on Alexa and Google Assistant. Any assistant will likely draw on lessons from Portal’s initial deployment; Facebook AI Research group, now in its fifth year; and AI the company uses today, such as PyText, Facebook’s main NLP model to fulfill billions of natural language tasks a day.
Updated 11:30 a.m. to include details about new Portal features.