WhatsApp, which has over 900 million monthly active users, is now a totally free app as the $1 annual subscription fee has been dropped. According to a blogpost from WhatsApp, the company said that charging the subscription fee, has not really worked well.
The blogpost reads, “Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.”
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum also confirmed the announcement at the annual Digital-Life-Design (DLD) conference in Munich. “Today, we are announcing that WhatsApp is going to be free to users. We aren’t going to charge a dollar a year anymore,” he said.
Koum also spoke about making WhatsApp fully encrypted for users on Android phones. “We are a couple of months away from calling it done,” Koum said, noting that once completed, WhatsApp will represent the world’s largest service offering completely private messaging.
“Soon we will be able to talk more about this,” he added.
So how does WhatsApp plan to make money ? WhatsApp won’t go for third-party ads in case you were afraid of that, but it will start testing tools to allow users to communicate with “businesses and organizations” on WhatsApp that they might be interested in. Sort of like the channels in BlackBerry Messenger or apps like Line also offer, but WhatsApp appears to have a slightly different idea.
The post gives a hint of how this could work, and says that the communications could be with your bank about a transaction or with an airline about delayed flights. Essentially the kind of messages and alerts that we normally get on our phones might soon start appearing on WhatsApp itself if more, and more organisations create an account on WhatsApp.
In India of course, many local businesses rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their customers who use the service to place orders either for daily groceries or even home-delivery from restaurants.
How WhatsApp’s plans pan out for businesses, we’ll have to wait and see.