WhatsApp finally launches web browser service

After six years, WhatsApp has finally launched its mobile-only service on the web.

The new service, named WhatsApp Web, will only work on Chrome web browser for the moment, and there are some caveats to using the messaging platform on the web.

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First is WhatsApp requires a QR code to launch the WhatsApp Web application and may ask for that more than once. WhatsApp also always needs direct connection to the mobile, meaning WhatsApp Web will shut down if the connected phone turns off.

The limitations make WhatsApp only useful to users writing out long messages to people, otherwise the WhatsApp Web client relies too much on the mobile to actually be a self-reliant service.

iOS users will not be able to launch the WhatsApp Web client either, due to "limitations" on Apple's platform. Apple does not allow mobile apps to communicate with Windows PCs through QR code.

Android, Windows Phone, BlackBerry and Nokia Series 60 will all work for WhatsApp Web however, meaning the vast majority of WhatsApp users should be able to at least open the Chrome client.

WhatsApp will look to expand compatibility and features in the next year, and potentially drop the need for a tethered mobile device. The problem is WhatsApp uses the mobile phone number to verify the account, rather than an account name and password, making it perfect for mobile and useless for desktop.

Facebook could help on this front, potentially connecting the user's WhatsApp account to a Facebook account. This would allow them to sign into WhatsApp through Facebook and never have to enter the mobile number or QR code.

WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion (£12 billion), but Facebook has not made any real changes on the service. The next upcoming feature will reportedly be a VoIP client, to compete with Skype.