As of February 2016, WhatsApp had a user base of one billion, making it the most popular instant messaging client. WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, both former Yahoo employees, and the messaging feature that WhatsApp is known for actually came to be in WhatsApp 2.0.
I was first introduced to WhatsApp by Sony, as it was preloaded on my first smartphone, the Xperia Pro. The first year would be free, and then it would be around $0.99 per year, for the service. After using it for some time, I was ready to pay the relatively small fee for the service. The best thing about it is the simplicity and focus. It is tied to a phone number, and is easy to use. It is a messenger and it’s good at it. No complexity, no bloat.
WhatsApp was bought by Facebook for 19.3 billion USD in February 2014, while having nearly half a billion monthly active users. Facebook is known for its advertising revenue model, for its controversial decisions, for taking two steps forward and one step backward, which was the source of some concern. But consumers were assured that WhatsApp would remain an independent entity.
Then earlier this year, WhatsApp dropped its paid subscription and declared that companies will be brought in to interact with consumers and they will be the source of revenue. Being unaware of the later, I was thinking about the possible routes it can take to generate revenue. Last week I was discussing with a friend about the possibility of getting companies to pay to interact with consumers and to write a short article about it. But I was slow to begin working on it and before I started, there has been an announcement by WhatsApp in a blog post about its future plans.
Some information will be shared with Facebook. This will be for better spam detection, and for making better product suggestion and showing more relevant ads on Facebook. Messages will still have end to end encryption and there will be no banner ads on WhatsApp.
WhatsApp will be exploring ways for businesses and consumers to communicate with each other using WhatsApp, such as through order, transaction, and appointment information, flight status updates, delivery and shipping notifications, product and service updates, and marketing. It will be interesting to see how they implement it. We may be able to get shipping updates by sending consignment number, or seat availability in flights by sending airport codes, etc.
They’ll have to be careful, however, to not cross the line between communication and spam, as some businesses can be overly enthusiastic about sharing something with the consumer.
I may have to part with WhatsApp if they cross the line between communication and spam with businesses they bring in to the service. Besides WhatsApp, other messengers I like are Facebook Messenger and Telegram. I’ll also be installing Google’s Allo when it launches later this year.
What about you? And what are your thoughts on the recent announcements by WhatsApp?