One of the hindrances of using WhatsApp as your main messaging platform, like most of us do in my part of the world, is that you're tied to your phone (or connected tablet). WhatsApp doesn't authenticate you with usernames or passwords, instead requiring a SIM card to work on any device. It had thus far been completely alien (aside from "hacked" solutions like WhatsRemote) to our desktops and full, comfortable, typing-friendly keyboards. That is in contrast to its competitors, Line, Viber, Telegram, and WeChat, which have all developed a desktop counterpart to their mobile solutions. But WhatsApp's lag might be changing, well, sometime down the line.
It seems the hints started when Telegram's founder Pavel Durov revealed in an interview that WhatsApp tried to hire his web app developer. Telegram had been capitalizing on its privacy features and desktop and web apps to differentiate itself and grow its user base. In response, WhatsApp recently made a few steps forward in the privacy field by starting to encrypt messages, but it had yet to solve the desktop issue.
That's why the guys on AndroidWorld.nl (and the team behind the WhatsAPI-Official GitHub project before them) have delved into the app's APK and uncovered some interesting strings. These seem to have been removed from recent updates but were still included in the 2.11.471 WhatsApp version. They contain several mentions of "WhatsApp Web," logging in and out of computers, and hints about tracking your status and latest activity in the web session.
<string name="can_not_start_voip_call_in_phone_call">"You cannot place a WhatsApp call if you're already on a phone call."</string><string name="confirmation_delete_all_qr">Are you sure you want to log out from all computers?</string><string name="currently_logged_into">Logged in computers</string><string name="delete_all_qr">Log out from all computers</string><string name="location_not_available">Location is not available</string><string name="log_out">Log out</string><string name="menuitem_whatsapp_web">WhatsApp Web</string><string name="qr_code_hint_2">Visit %s on your computer</string><string name="voip_call_bluetooth_toggle_description">Toggle Bluetooth</string><string name="web_session_active">Online</string><string name="web_session_description_place_browser_os">"Started in %1$s %2$s"</string><string name="web_session_last_date">Last active %s</string><string name="web_session_last_today_at">Last active today at %s</string><string name="web_session_last_yesterday_at">Last active yesterday at %s</string><string name="whatsapp_web">WhatsApp Web</string>
Despite being owned by Facebook and having that as an option to solve the login issue on the web, WhatsApp's implementation seems to avoid broaching the topic, thankfully — Facebook login would certainly irk a lot of users. Instead, it seems to employ a similar method to Telegram's by using your phone to verify your identity, but with QR codes instead of messages. As for the address, it could be web.whatsapp.com, which is now a private subdomain locked with a Google account login.
Keep in mind that there's nothing certain yet and no timeline on the release. All we have are sparse clues that WhatsApp has some form of a web service in development. But if you're like me, you'll see this as a glass half-full type of deal: clues are better than no clue, and it's nice to know that this may be happening in the future.