The reason why whatsapp groups admit 256 participants maximum

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Shane Conder
@shaneconder
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Despite being the most used messaging application on planet Earth, WhatsApp still keeps the strange secret that not everyone knows. For example, did you know it wasn't even a messaging app at first? , Or that the maximum number of participants in a group has a technical explanation? .

We have already told you about the first case once, but until now we have not explained to you because WhatsApp groups admit "only" 256 people. Neither 255 nor 257. And the truth is that, while rivals such as Telegram continue to increase this number to unsuspected limits - today there are already 200.000 people who can be part of a Telegram group, and going up - WhatsApp remains faithful to this curious and technical figure released in 2016.



WhatsApp groups only support 256 people, but there is a reason

To understand why WhatsApp, at the time, decided to choose this very precise figure as the maximum number of members that can be added to a group, you need to consider some of the basic fundamentals of computer science, as the binary system uses 2 digits to be represented –0 and 1–.

As user dat_sylveon on Reddit points out, WhatsApp stores each user in a group with a unique identifier. Therefore, taking into account that 256 is the maximum number of participants, and that the binary system uses 2 digits, we can deduce that each unique user identifier uses 8 bits, since 2 raised to 8 equals 256, which is the maximum number of unique identifiers that can be obtained.

The truth is that 256 is one of the most important numbers in the field of computing, since it is the largest number of elements that can be represented with a single byte - eight bit, or what in a binary system would be "eight some" -. For example, 256 is the maximum number of colors that can be found in a GIF or the number of characters in the ASCII language.



WhatsApp could easily assign unique identifiers consisting of a greater number of bits. It is possible that, over time, 2 bytes will be allocated instead of 1 as before, which would result in a maximum number of participants of more than 65.000 people per group, a figure that, today, would not be necessary for the vast majority of users of the platform.



We do not know if WhatsApp will increase this limit sooner or later and, if it will, at what maximum number of participants. But at least we already know why, after extending the group limit for the first time, 256 was the number chosen by the club.

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