Skip to content

The reason why WhatsApp groups support 256 participants maximum

Despite being the most used messaging application on planet Earth, Whatsapp He still keeps the odd secret that not everyone knows. For example, , .

We have already told you about the first case, but until now we had not explained why WhatsApp groups support “only” 256 people. Neither 255, nor 257. And the truth is that, while rivals like 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's a reason

Download WhatsApp for free on Android in 2018

To understand why WhatsApp, at the time, decided choose this very specific figure As the maximum number of members that can be added to a group, you have to take into account some of the basic fundamentals of computer science, As the binary system which uses 2 digits to represent –0 and 1–.

As the Username on Reddit, 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 to the power of 8 equals 256, which is the maximum number of unique identifiers that can be obtained.

The truth is 256 is one of the most important numbers in the field of computer science, since it is the largest number of elements that can be represented with a single byte –eight bits, or what in binary system would be “eight ones” -. 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 made up of a larger 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 be unnecessary to the vast majority of platform users.

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