How can Whatsapp work even with poor internet service?

Modern vector illustration of mobile phone with chat screen app

Why WhatsApp can work even with bad internet?

The key to Whatsapp’s huge success lies in its ease of use and its ability to function even in poor internet conditions. In doing so, it has established a league of its own, surpassing not only conventional systems like SMS, but other IM platforms as well.

Modern vector illustration of mobile phone with chat screen app
Simple usable features like blue checkmarks for message recognition make WhatsApp very useful (Photo Credit: Zoa.Arts/Shutterstock)

Simple features like blue checkmarks for message recognition, document sharing, and even secure payment gateways make WhatsApp a very convenient and powerful tool to have by your side. At the same time, it also works well with inaccurate internet.

As we already know, all forms of electronic communication are a transaction of packets of information through designated channels. WhatsApp is designed to compress these packets for easier transmission, even with poor internet connectivity. To achieve this, WhatsApp has several elements integrated into its code.

Optimization for various bandwidths

WhatsApp is optimized to work on all currently prevailing bandwidths, namely 3G, 4G and 5G. WhatsApp message transmission speeds are directly related to the speed of your internet connection.

However, the strength of the network does not remain constant in all parts of the world. Chances are you may even encounter 2G internet speeds in some areas. In such events, small packets of information, such as texts, may take priority over larger ones, such as multimedia files.

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WhatsApp is optimized to work under almost all internet conditions. However, the quality of communication is directly related to the available Internet speed. (Photo credit: Vitamin444/Shutterstock)

Try it yourself… When you are stuck with poor internet connectivity, try sending your WhatsApp contacts a media file (picture, video, file, etc.) followed by a text message. You will find that the text message is delivered while the media loads in the background.

This is because Whatsapp allows smaller packets of information such as text to be transmitted under poor internet conditions. While WhatsApp typically follows a first-in, first-out sequence, it ignores it to adapt to poor network conditions.

Adaptive bitrate streaming

Similar to message delivery priority, adaptive bitrate streaming is how WhatsApp optimizes videos over a poor network connection. Like Youtube and other video sharing platforms, WhatsApp doesn’t require you to download the entire video in order to play.

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Bit rate adaptive streaming refers to the automatic adjustment of video quality based on the strength of your Internet connection. (Photo credit: Fadesain/Shutterstock)

The beginning is streamed, where later parts of the video download in the background while you watch the beginning parts. When you suffer from poor internet connection, WhatsApp is designed to reduce the quality of the video, rather than block it from playing at all. This feature, known as adaptive bitrate streaming, is a great way to make WhatsApp work, even in poor internet conditions.

Data compression protocols

WhatsApp has various techniques to compress all types of information it transmits, i.e. text, images, audio and video. These techniques are a combination of measures in which some data is either permanently lost (lossy techniques) or compressed (lossless techniques), to reduce file size.

Lossy compression techniques cause several perceptible differences, such as loss of image sharpness and a reduction in resolution. However, they also make subtle changes, such as removing metadata and even high-frequency data, such as color shifts, background noise, and other imperfections

Lossless compression, on the other hand, is slightly more complicated, as it tries to reduce file size without any actual data loss. To do this, it looks for redundancies in the data and replaces them with a single unit of representation. All data points with identical information are now represented by this single unit, rather than restating all the information. This technique, known as a reference, is a great way to compact a file without losing essential information.

A simple visual representation of lossy and lossless compression
A simple visual representation of lossy and lossless compression

WhatsApp also places a limit on the size of documents and videos that can be shared, further reducing bandwidth and, consequently, the time taken to send them. Lossy techniques achieve higher data compression than lossless techniques. Their disadvantage is that they directly and perceptibly cause the deterioration of the quality of the media.

Here’s how you can take advantage of it. Some websites place a limit on the size of media that can be uploaded. Common examples include banking, government, employment, and university application portals.

It’s easy enough not to anticipate such situations, requiring a last-minute rush to online compression tools. Using WhatsApp, on the other hand, you can share the desired file with a trusted contact, or even with yourself. The shared file is a compressed version of the original and will invariably suffice for all your compression needs!

Online and offline data caching

To ensure that the data being transacted is always available to users, WhatsApp stores the data both locally and on its servers. This has a double advantage. Online storage prevents consumption of local storage space, while offline storage ensures that useful information is always available to the user.

Commonly cached information includes chats, media content, and profile pictures stored both locally and online. Whenever a secure, high-strength connection is established, WhatsApp updates this cache with only the most recent information. This technique, known as differential data transfer, allows WhatsApp to keep your records up-to-date without consuming a lot of data.

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WhatsApp uses a combination of online and offline caching to always keep the latest news at your fingertips without incurring significant data consumption (Photo Credit: EtiAmmos/Shutterstock)

Thus, WhatsApp is designed to work at the confluence of conflict: good and bad internet, online and offline storage, constant connectivity, and low data consumption. Having the protocols mentioned above, along with privacy add-ons like end-to-end encryption, makes WhatsApp a great tool to have in your toolkit.

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