Facebook-owned WhatsApp goes free as service wants to remove barriers to adoption and connect users to businesses
Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp will be scrapping its annual subscription fee in an attempt to sign up more users.
Speaking at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, Recode cited WhatsApp founder Jan Koum as saying the annual fee “really doesn’t work that well”.
“We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off,” he said.
WhatApp, until today, has been a free service for the first 12 months, and then 99 cents or pence per year after that.
But WhatsApp’s new business model will help the service become “more useful” according to a company blog post today.
“…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,” said the blog.
WhatsApp quelled fears of the inclusion of third-party advertising now that it is free.
“Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no,” said the company.
“That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so 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,” said WhatsApp.
WhatsApp was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, and according to Koum, the service has more than 900 million monthly active users as of September 2015.
WhatsApp’s new strategy echoes that of Facebook’s Messenger platform, where users can chat with businesses on the standalone chat app.
“Nearly a billion people around the world today rely on WhatsApp to stay in touch with their friends and family,” said WhatsApp today on its blog post.
“From a new dad in Indonesia sharing photos with his family, to a student in Spain checking in with her friends back home, to a doctor in Brazil keeping in touch with her patients, people rely on WhatsApp to be fast, simple and reliable.”