What’s that? WhatsApp actually costs money to use? Well, yes and no. WhatsApp is a free app for the first year of use, from then on, you used to have to fork out $0.99 each year in order to continue using it. Though more often than not, WhatsApp would reset the clock meaning the free time rolled over for another 12 months. Not that it matters any more as they’ve completely ditched the fee, though promise to remain ad-free.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp has become one of the top messaging services aside from Facebook’s own Messenger app. Last we heard, the messaging app had around 900 million users, and continues to grow. In order to stay afloat, a $0.99 annual fee was charged to long-time users, which didn’t seem like that much of an issue.
However, today WhatsApp announced that they’d be ditching the fee. Founder Jan Koum revealed the news at DND in Munich today, saying that removing the fee could help the service grow even further. The issue, it seems, is that users needed to have a credit card on file in order to continue using the app, a big issue for those in developing countries. Removing this fee could allow for those people to use the app.
So that leaves a big hole. How will Whatsapp monetize the service? Obvious signs point to in-app ads, which would likely drive users away to other services. Whatsapp hasn’t revealed what it’ll be doing in exchange for ditching the fee, but they have revealed that ads possibly aren’t on the cards. Instead they revealed that “we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.”
That to me sounds a lot like a modern newsletter of sorts. Rather than having ads pop-up, users will likely be added to massive blasts from companies promoting a product with a short message like any other conversation. They’ll likely be able to subscribe or opt-in to these sort of blasts based on brands they like. Think of it like Snapchat’s Discover feature.
Whatever WhatsApp do, this move is certainly for the best.