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WhatsApp’s ‘tick’ system is causing mass confusion

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It feels like there’s a simpler way to do this… 

It’s time to face a harsh reality: WhatsApp’s two-tick system is failing us. The premise of a read receipt system is an empty one, and hysteria has ensued. 

Here’s how the massively popular messaging app’s system works: Getting one tick on WhatsApp means that a message was sent. The second tick, however, is where the confusion begins. It’s supposed to inform users when a message was delivered—not read. However, many people are absolutely sure it means “message read,” and become offended when they don’t get a quick reply. This often leads to disbelief when the other party swears they were asleep or away from their device. “So why did it show two ticks?!?” is the common entreaty uttered by regular WhatsApp users. 

WhatsApp users, instead, are certain the recipients of their messages are ignoring them. 

Furthing the confusion is WhatsApp’s “last seen” feature. It tries to clear everything up by showing the time the recipient of your message was last seen online, but this is tricking users into thinking that “seen online” means “message read.” Here is a quote from WhatsApp’s FAQ, general query number 20971848:

“‘Online’ means that contact has WhatsApp open and is connected to the internet. However, it does not necessarily mean they have read your chat.”

A common WhatsApp panic involves getting stuck on one tick for a significant amount of time:

Not to mention being blocked on the app:

The “I know you read my message, you’re lying” concerns aren’t going anywhere. Many people love Twitter’s DM system because it doesn’t show “last seen,” “typing…,” or any ticks. But surely that cannot be the solution.

Humanity can’t go back to a no-tick system. The solution? WhatsApp must introduce a third tick that will pop up only when a new chat balloon in a thread has been opened for more than two seconds.

Or, simply put: read.

Photo by Yatuka Tutsano/Flickr (CC BY 2.0) | Remix by Fernando Alfonso III

Nimrod Kamer

Nimrod Kamer

Nimrod Kamer is a journalist and satirist based in the U.K. whose work has appeared in the GQ, Vice, Wired, the Guardian and Huffington Post, as well as on BBC Newsnight. He is the author of The Social Climber's Handbook: A Shameless Guide.