3 Things to Understand About the Whatsapp ‘Online’ Status (Before You Freak Out)

whatsapp_

By Komborerai Murimba – After getting enough requests by some of our readers to explain exactly how the ‘Online’ feature on Whatsapp behaves, we felt compelled to explain how it works exactly. For some readers the request was purely inspired  by curiosity while some expressed their genuine confusion, stemming from troublesome scenarios into which Whatsapp had led them. Either way, we are going to share three main things you should understand about the online status on Whatsapp.

Online can mean the client is active, not just the user
The obvious case is that Whatsapp displays an ‘online’ status when someone is typing and sending messages. This is the manner in which most people trust Whatsapp to rightly report (of course leading to the many bouts we have all heard of). Here’s some relief for you. That’s not the only time Whatsapp will display an online status. When you are using Whatsapp and you leave the client open to do something else, for instance, it will still show an ‘online’ status. In our thorough tests, we discovered that this will switch from ‘online’ to a last seen time-stamp repeatedly in most cases. So, online does not always mean someone is active on Whatsapp. It can also simply mean, the client is active on your mobile device. Note, when we say ‘active’ we are talking about the app running in the foreground. Which brings me to the next point.

Online can be triggered by other tasks or application
Not in the sense you would think. When the client is activated and the user is not using the client, if they receive a call which causes them to press a key or touch the screen to executive a function, the application’s status is also turned to ‘online’, even if Whatsapp is not in focus (considering that another process would be the one in the foreground thereafter)

Online status is often ‘drunk’
While it remains unclear why this happens, one possible explanation is that the Whatsapp servers are taking quite a load – maybe so large, ‘online’ statuses and last seen time-stamps are not always accurate in real-time. Actually, many times, they are actually completely off-target. Two people can chat on Whatsapp and on either side, the last seen time-stamp from two hours back does not change to ‘online’ for an entire thirty minutes plus.

The online status is linked to the irritating aspects of the app we mentioned when we talked about the 4 annoying things about Whatsapp. And still, despite many updates you can’t shut it down in many devices as you would want to, when the noise becomes a bit overwhelming. Yet another reason to try Line, one of the world’s best free social apps!

The following two tabs change content below.
Komborerai is a photographer, writer and graphic designer. He is a firm believer in using ICT to "...create lasting sustainable solutions for real life problems in society", and open source software. He loves fishing, playing chess and collecting socks.
  • Paul

    When I see my gf online, but she’s not responding to my messages, she says the reason she’s online is that she turned her screen off (put phone in standby) without closing Whatsapp.
    Is it true Whatsapp stays online in that case?

  • Dr.DODO Tommy

    hi i cannot see status of my friend on whats app even last seen on i thought he blocked me but he sent me on another app that he didnt and tried to send on whats app but on,y one check appeared..he is swearing he didnt block me..then what does it mean tha t i cannot see the status and the last seen on ???

  • Sanjay

    Dear Komborerai,

    Hi I am using whatsapp on my Samsung Tab. I have a friend from Russia in my contact list on whatsapp. I think this so called friend of mine is dating my girlfriend. I want to check the contact list of my this friend and my girlfriend.

    Is their any option by which I can check their contact list.

    Please reply immedialtely.

    Regards

    Sanjay

  • Sanjay

    Dear Komborerai,

    Hi I am using whatsapp on my Samsung Tab. I have a friend from Russia in my contact list on whatsapp. I think this so called friend of mine is dating my girlfriend. I want to check the contact list of my this friend and my girlfriend.

    Is their any option by which I can check their contact list.

    Please reply immedialtely.

    Regards

    Sanjay

  • Anonn_5

    Hi.. just wanted to ask whatsapp doesn’t display my timestamp whereas it is not toggled off. What to do?

  • komal rohilla

    Hey i wanted to know dat if i m hving someones contact in my phn bt dat person is not hving my contact. Than wts app will show me that she is online. Or will show last seen only

  • annabilly

    What does Ow COP mmm status mean on What’s App

  • Therockguy

    Just wondering about the double checks . When I send a message to someone it will show the double checks. Now my understanding of the double checks means that WhatsApp network received the message and sent the message to the recipient’s phone. But when I talk to the recipient they say it says downloading on WhatsApp and they don’t actually receive the message until later even though I see the double check . Is this a normal problem.

  • cha cha

    All my messages send to everyone but one person, who happens to be the guy i like. I restarted my phone and ive even uninstalled and reinstalled the app. Its still not sending to him….help….PLEASE!!

  • Divya Mishra

    we can access whatsapp online http://www.springedge.com

  • Umpalolo

    She lives far away..wants to come live here..she said in her time 1 am I’m going too sleep ..I know she sleeps with radio on or music playing on her iphone..I see online when I wanted to ps her..till 3 am …what’s she chatting or surfing till 3 or sleeping…I want to move on and not be f$&ked over again! Yes or no pls

  • disqus_aflwDsMByx

    Hello,
    I have an iPhone 5s and I have the feature to turn off my timestamp; But I notice once I turn it off I can’t see everyone’s timestamp. Is that how it works?

    Thanks

  • steyn

    hyy

    how can i chat without my status being online?
    dere r many appsclaimin toolve dis.. But dey just disconnect dat… So v cant realy send msgs.. Can u hepl with dis prob? .

  • antonis

    good morning i have a question: i have an iphone and although i did hide last seen ok on iphones it works perfectly BUT friends how are using androids mobiles can still see my last seen. you know what is happening and any suggestion? thank you in advance

  • Confused

    My friend/contact’s status stopped appearing, but I thought this was because they had changed their phone number. I’ve since opened up Whatsapp and I still can’t see their status but they have changed their profile picture – how can this be? Are they still online with their original number but with not status?

  • Laura

    I understand how the app works but I’m still confused on one subject. I message my friends on what’s app, sometimes I’ll ignore one of my friends messages and not open them because I’m at work or something and she usually sends me long messages, but then I’ll get another message from a friend and I will read it, does my time stamp online appear to only the person I’m texting, ex. Lets say I get a message from my talkative friend, I ignore it and open another message at 1pm, will my timestamp for my talkative friend show last time online 1pm or will it only show the timestamp from the last message I sent her ? Pretty much do timestamps change per messenger or is it just one single time stamp that marks when and went yo aren’t offline? Hope this makes sense, I don’t want my friend to think I ignore her messages because I’m usually just too busy to reply.

    • Ryan Smith

      can someone plz answer Lauras question as i have the same one thanks.

      • haylie

        It is one single timestamp. In other words your talkative friend will know you have been online and ignored her message

  • Emily

    Hiya, I was just wondering if you could please answer a question for me as I can’t find the answer to it anywhere on the internet. I have an S3, I can’t always reply to messages on what’s app as I’m busy. When I do get a message, and don’t look at it straight away but I clear the drop down menu so it’s not on my phones notifications, half an hour later or so the same message gets resent it then reappears in the drop menu. Is it the other contact sending a reminder? Knowing that you haven’t looked at the message yet or is it what’s app setting that do this?. It’s really annoying :/ I hope I’ve explained this clearly. Thank you

  • Jane S

    my one contact in whatsapp is showing last time he was online is the day before yesterday, i can not send messages only to him but he says he receives from others and I can send to others,, what is wrong?

  • kudzi

    my phone displays online while lm not online how come can anyone explain it to me

  • JOSE REYES

    My problem is this and it happens with just one contact. His last seen is always like frozen when we are sending each other messages. For example his last seen is 7;34pm but i have received messages from him at 9pm and 10 pm and her last seen and even the next day and her last seen still says 7:34pm from previous day, sometimes it does fix, but this happens only with this contact. Could it be that his using an app that prevents the last seen to be seen? i know there are a lot of apps that can do that on Google Play

  • Jeremy Green

    Hi
    I have blocked a contact but their timestamp regularly updates.
    Why is that?
    And does that mean they see my timestamp updating also?
    I’m using whatsapp on Android.

    • brian

      Wen u block some one d contact person wont b able to c ur lastseen or ur picture ..
      But u ll c d same thngs as u culd c earlier….

  • stifano

    if i open whatsup while iam not connected to internet , is the last seen will be updated as soon as i connect to internet..
    note : i ll not use whatsup, so do not tell me you will be online…

    • Kay

      Hey Stifano. The short answer to your question is, ‘no’, if you are not on the net, it will not update. But if the client is open, as soon as it gets a connection, it will update.

  • Ketan Desai

    how to keep blank status on whtsapp?

    • Kay

      Depends on the device. On older phones, you can’t. Symbian and Java phones have that setback. But on newer ones, you can actually turn the time-stamp off now.

      • Natalia’s

        Can u help me with this one. I have a friend whose timestamp I cannot see. I think that person blocked me because when i send messages to that person it does not go through, until i finally get a reply, then i know the person got my message and the wierd thing is, when i send messages to other contacts they receive their message instantly. This person just got the new iphone5, with the finger print unlock.
        Does that phone have a feature where the user can turn off time stamp? I can see when others are online and their last seen but i see nothing from this contact, until that person decides to message me and that’s the only time i see that person’s online status.

      • Komborerai Murimba

        Hey Natalia. The short answer to your question is yes, iPhone allows users to opt to turn off the timestamp feature.

      • Natalia’s

        Thanks for your answer. That explains the time stamp but can u explain 1. Why When i send this person messages the messages dont go through but messages go through to other contacts…instantly?
        2. If they turn their time stamp off, is it directed to me only or all this person’s contacts?

  • Vivek K

    Hi Komborerai,

    Is there any way to hide my whatsapp status. I mean, if some of my friends view my profile, my status should be empty without any words or smileys. Just want a blank status.

    • Kay

      Hope I am getting your question right Vivek. As far as I know, there is no way of hiding your status except deleting it and leaving it blank. WhatsApp apparently doesn’t find it useful to restrict that. As a matter of fact, as long as someone has your number, they can see your status. Even if you don;t have theirs and even if they are in Europe and you are in India.

  • Anon anon

    Hello, please help :(. Your article is very explanative but I’m still struggling to get my head around everything. Namely because, I’ll be honest, I feel a new partner is being pretty dishonest with me. What I’d like to understand if you’d kindly explain…(again!) in very simple terms. My partner has an iPhone 4 and what I’d like to know….if he has been on whatsapp and he presses the round ‘minimise’ button at the bottom of the phone….is it at all possible that his online status can change between ‘online’ and ‘last seen’? My understanding is that when you press that round button to minimise whatever you’ve been doing, it continues to run in the background until you actually double click the round button and ‘shut down’ all the things running. So yeah, I’d like to know please that if he has only just minimised whatsapp by pressing the round button, can his status change from online and last seen? I’m talking like every 5/ 10 / 15 minutes or so. I know it’s very insecure of me and I’m paranoid but it’s causing a lot of trouble for us when he tells me he’s of to bed….and it appears he’s up chatting for a subsequent hour (status flicking between being online and ‘last seen’). I feel he’s bare faced lying to me. Please hit me with the truth, no matter what it is ;)

    • Kay

      Hey Anon Anon. Sorry to have taken this long to reply. As you read this, please pay attention to point number one which states that “Online can mean the client is active, not just the user”.

      We can’t know for certain what is going on with your partner, but here is how WhatsApp works. When the client is MINIMISED, the time-stamp freezes to last seen. Even though it’s running in the background, it doesn’t change because it’s not in the foreground (hence you are not active). When you open it again, that’s when it updates. That’s how WhatsApp works.

      The only case where it paces back and forth from ‘online’ to ‘last seen’ is when the screen dims while WhatsApp is in the foreground. From our tests on that, we have noticed that it paces back and forth, even when the person is not ‘active’.

      As far as that being an apt explanation to decide whether your partner is being faithful or not, I wouldn’t know.

      Hope this helps!

    • Divya Mishra
  • Paramjeet Singh

    wh

  • Janie

    Can you only see I persons status if you both have each other’s number?

    • Kay

      No, Janie. A person who has your number CAN see your status (which is what is very bothersome about WhatsApp), even if you don’t have theirs. All it takes is for the person to save you into their contacts. By default, WhatsApp user information is ‘public’, so to speak.

      If you want to experiment, add any number and add them to your contacts, and if they are on WhatsApp, you’ll be able to view their profile.

  • Nad Maz

    Hello,
    is there a way to change the profile status without appearing online? I saw one person’s status changed to some quote without having his/her last seen timestamp changing. How is that even possible?

    • Kay

      Hey Nad. I am not so sure how someone would change their status without coming online (because the moment the client is opened, it registers and the timestamp is updated). The only two explanations which are possible are

      1. When someone is blocked
      2. (I’m banking on this one more) The timestamp ‘drunk’ as is common these days.

  • Simone11

    Hello! Does anyone know if “online” and “last seen” statuses will update if I see a message preview on the pull-down menu of my Android, but don’t actually open the app?

    • Becker

      No, the status doesn’t change unless you open the actual message.

      • Simone11

        Thank you, Becker!

  • disqus_BEmm5sWVB4

    Hello again.
    Do you know the answer to my question about Smart Voice Recorder. Not the inbuilt recorder but an additional app.
    Can the recipient start listening to the recording ‘Before’ it fully downloads or must it download fully first? I emailed the developer a few days ago but they didn’t get back yet.

  • disqus_BEmm5sWVB4

    Do you know if I am in a contact’s chat with me but not typing, if it will say ‘typing’ even though I aren’t or will it only say online?

    • Becker

      It will only say online. I will only say typing if you press typing keys.

  • dulce

    point of clarification – will it show “online” if i minimize whatsapp but not completely close it — if for example i am checking facebook on my device or emails? whatsapp is still open just not the app i’m actively checking – what will be the status then?

    • Kay

      As long as WhatsApp is in the background, it will likely show a ‘Last seen at…’ timestamp, and it’s simply because it’s out of focus (running in the background). The reaction would only be different if you were using WhatsApp and then you dim your screen while it’s running in the foreground. The moment you unlock your screen, it will come online, because it goes back into focus as the app in the foreground at the moment. Hope that clears it up for you!

  • Suzi

    I heard that even without the ‘online’ status being changed for the last six days, it does not mean that the person has not send out messages using Whatsapp. How do this happened?

    • Kay

      Hie Suzi. From our understanding of the application the likelihood of that happening is next to zero. Bear in mind, even though the online status is drunk at times and the time-stamps are misplaced and erroneous, the moment someone opens the app, it updates access logs.

      Unless, if a number was blocked. The blocked number wouldn’t be able to get access to info on the user of interest.

  • jeanni

    you online and your contact is online too , how can you tell they are not typing to another contact ?

    • Kay

      Unfortunately, you can never know. It would be an outright breach of privacy which any app would probably never be allowed to do. :)

  • kiwi

    Thank you for the useful and quick feedback

  • kiwi

    Will the timestamp change if you only look through your old messages, without writing? Thanks

    • Komborerai Murimba

      Yes, it will. Even if you are just navigating through messages and menus and even settings, WhatsApp will register that you are ‘online’.

  • Lalula Frei

    So, the way I understand it is as follows:
    1) “Online” means they have their app open, looking at it on the screen… or not? I don’t really get what you mean when saying “… when you leave the client open to do something else, for instance…”. That means, if you get a call, for example, as far as I understand. BUT then isn’t that having the app running in the foreground as you mention later? Or what is the difference between “leaving the client open to do something else” and having the app “running in the foreground”?
    2) “Last seen at” is when you *close* the app… but again, what does this exactly mean? Isn’t it true that you cannot turn it off? So this would mean, again, “running in the foreground”, right?

    So basically, “online” means the person is using Whatsapp right there and then, for whatever reason (chat, change a setting, stare at the screen or just having it open for the sake of driving someone else crazy lol); and “last seen at” means they have minimised the app and it is no longer opeen, or the phone was turned off, or whatever they did, but the app’s screen is not open any more… right? Wrong?

    Please explain! It is all so confusing…
    Thank you

    • Komborerai Murimba

      Hey Lalula,

      1. What I meant by “when you leave the client open to do something else” I mean that if you leave the client open and dim your screen/just leave it open and then you go about other business (away from the phone), it will switch from the last seen stamp and online status repeatedly because the client is open. In other words, it’s the last active app and so it will keep running.

      2. Closing the app is leaving it to go back to your home/standby screen. Yes, you are right, in most devices you can’t shut it down (unless you do it forcibly). Heed this difference: Running in the foreground means it’s the app currently active (on screen), and background is any app which is running on the phone, but not the one active on the screen. Think of it in these terms, your browser is in the foreground when you are surfing on your PC, But your Skype is running in the background which means you can still receive messages, but it’s not the application you are actually working in.

      And yes to your last statement in your comment “so basically…right? Wrong?”. You’re right.

      Hope that helps clear it up. If I didn’t explain something well enough, feel free to drill down on it. :)

      • Lalula Frei

        Hi there Komborerai, it is very clear now, thank you so much. Thank you also for taking the time for clarifying in such detail.
        Part of my confusion was that I was mistaking “foreground” with “background” :-|
        My conclusion? I will just leave whatsapp do its thing and ill do mine. Freaking out is never a good option hahaha…
        Thanks once again for your amazing article, it is the only such one – which really explains and not only copies and pastes from the whatsapp Q&A

      • Komborerai Murimba

        You’re very welcome Lalula! :) And thanks for the compliment – I’m thrilled that you found the article useful.

      • dulce

        point of clarification – will it show “online” if i minimize whatsapp but not completely close it — if for example i am checking facebook on my device or emails? whatsapp is still open just not the app i’m actively checking – what will be the status then?

      • glen

        if someones wassap says online could they be on facebook ???

      • Tamer Gamal Eldin

        I have strange story I wish you can help me with . I was in toronto using my whatsapp from my egyptian cell phone number And I chatted with my girlfriend who is in south africa using her egyptian cell phone number.we had small quarrel few days ago but everything is ok but her cell phone was damaged and she went to repair it and I am 100% sure that she sent him for repair That is why I did not find her last seen status. What happened that I change my egyptian sim with the canadain sim and I found the status of the last seen ……in the morning i found her online for one minute I texted her from my new sim I t sends the two ticks after one minute I sent message it gave me one tick…….putting into the consideration that my family saw her also last seen from their cell phones ……I confronted her with that She swear that she does not have the app on the cell phone she is used and I did not find any reason that she blocked me because we were in good relation in that time after the small quarrel and she texted me on cell phone and she sent me a message on my facebook from her friend account so did it block me or what????

      • Tamer Gamal Eldin

        this story happened with one of my best male friends who used also the android system but the only difference that when I sent him hello from different number he replied and tell me there is problem with his cell phone and many of his friends told him the same story

  • ex ex

    i want privacy,,i hate my status being online wen i m using it

    • Komborerai Murimba

      True. One of the very big downsides of WhatsApp.

    • misused

      That’s probably because youre ex that moved on to another girl so quick!

  • Jacky

    Can getting a call cause watsapp to appear online even when they dont rreceive it

    • Komborerai Murimba

      It depends, Jacky. If your client is open and a call comes, even if you miss the call, the client is put in focus, hence, you will reflect as ‘online’ and that time, and your ‘last seen’ time-stamp will change. However, if your phone is on home screen or another application, there will be no change.

  • Lewis

    I wish we could change the status to whatever we want.:(

    • Komborerai Murimba

      I think we stand higher chances of achieving world peace before Whatsapp allows for that. Personally, I think the feature is one of their biggest selling points. Not that people like to be that exposed, but rather, because they enjoy the ability to ‘watch’ others. :)

  • Cathy

    Thanks Komborerai! Your post spoke to me. :)

    • Komborerai Murimba

      You’re very welcome Cathy. You were doubting him, weren’t you?

      • Candice

        Hi Komborerai :) I have an android and my friend has an Iphone. If he changed his whatsapp settings to hide his last seen status, can he still see my last seen status even if I cant see his?

      • karen crawford

        Hi there
        I have an iphone 5s and I switched my last seen time stamp to off yesterday. Over 24 hours later I put it back on but since then I’ve been unable to see when ANY of my friends have been last on and they can’t see me either. I double checked I have toggled back several times and all seems fine, any ideas?