WhatsApp To Carry Adverts From 2019 – Report

WhatsApp users could see a major change to their messaging service over the next year, after it was reported that Facebook will begin to show targeted ads in its Status feature in 2019.

And to make matters worse Facebook will also reportedly begin to deliver marketing messages from business clients within WhatsApp, as the social network seeks to monetise its hugely popular messaging service.

It comes after WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton last week revealed that he had clashed with Facebook management over its attempts to wring money from the app. Acton admitted that he had sold the privacy of WhatsApp users – one of the core principles upon which WhatsApp was founded.

Internal tensions

Acton used his interview with Forbes to highlight internal tensions that arose when Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for a staggering $22bn, despite the fact that WhatsApp at the time had a tiny revenue stream.

WhatsApp co-founder Acton eventually left Facebook in November 2017 after concerns about the way Facebook “probed” at the app’s end-to-end encryption.

He was followed by the other co-founder, Jan Koum, who in May 2018 departed Facebook after he also reportedly clashed with its attempts to use personal data and weaken its encryption.

Since his departure, Acton then joined a number of former executives critical of Facebook and this year he stunned his former workmates when he tweeted “it is time. #deletefacebook” following the Cambridge Analytica data sharing scandal.

Acton hasn’t sent another Tweet since.

WhatsApp adverts

And Forbes also reported that the Acton interview made clear that advertising was the primary reason WhatsApp co-founder Acton left WhatsApp in 2017, along with encryption.

Facebook reportedly insists that messages sent between WhatsApp’s 1.5 billion users will remain encrypted and that “there are no plans to change that.”

However, the Sun newspaper meanwhile reported that a WhatsApp spokesperson has confirmed this change (the appearance of adverts) would take place next year, but said all messages would stay “end-to-end encrypted”.

Forbes meanwhile contacted a number of security experts who confirmed it would be possible for Facebook to derive keywords from people’s messages and use them to impose Facebook’s ad-targeting model on the app.

And more fuel was added to the fire when Alex Stamos took to Twitter last week to argue that technology companies “need to find a sustainable business model for professionally run, end-to-end encrypted communications,” and floated advertising as an option.

Stamos of course is the former security chief at Facebook and now works at Yahoo, and he tweeted that it is “foolish to expect that FB shareholders are going to subsidise a free text/voice/video global communications network forever. Eventually, WhatsApp is going to need to generate revenue,” he tweeted.

Hated, but necessary?

Last week saw the departures from Facebook of Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, who said they wanted to explore their “curiosity and creativity again”.

And in May this year it was reported that senior management at Facebook were apparently considering whether an advert free version (paid by subscriptions) would tempt more people to join.

The social networking giant reportedly conducted market research on this in an effort to gauge the reaction of people.

Adverts are the lifeblood for Facebook, as the social networking giant generated virtually all its $41bn in revenue last year by selling ads targeted with user data.

The introduction of adverts into people’s Facebook newsfeed has been an unpopular development in recent years, and many Facebook users remain unhappy about the development.

This happened despite research that British people resented big brands invading their social networks.

Quiz: Think you know all about Facebook?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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