After a $19 billion purchase by Facebook back in 2014, WhatsApp’s founder has announced that the service will be completely free to all users.
Oddly enough, even though most users were prompted to pay 99 cents after the first year of use, many users were given the opportunity to renew for free close to the expiration date. As a WhatsApp user myself, I’ve downloaded and used the service for free for the past 5+ years.
With almost 1 billion users under its belt, the company admits that the yearly fee has not worked well in their favour because of the limitation of payment methods (e.g. little access to credit or debit cards), and wants to tackle the business market instead.
“Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.”
As many smaller companies are already using WhatsApp as another means of communication, it seems like the perfect opportunity for them to create formalized tools for companies (especially in developing countries where WhatsApp is very popular) to get in touch with their clients via texts and phone calls.
Of course the service will come at a price, and customers will not be contacted unless they explicitly allow selected companies to do so.
Even though WhatsApp’s revenue model has been the biggest question mark since inception, they have promised to not water down the experience by not including any forms of in-app advertising or spam.
“We want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.”
Let’s see how that goes.