It was almost inevitable that WhatsApp would go through some fairly big changes after its staggering $16 billion acquisition by Facebook in 2014. The well-known cross-platform messaging app was extremely popular prior to the acquisition, but has since grown to have over 900 million active users, making it the current leader of the instant messaging pack. Larger changes will undoubtedly be on the horizon for the service, but in the meantime the company has announced that it will be slashing the $1 subscription charge that users were required to pay after their first year of usage.
Messaging applications are some of the most popular and frequently installed apps that mobile users have installed on their devices. WhatsApp, along with the likes of Viber, WeChat, and even Kik Messenger to a certain extent, have increased exponentially in popularity over the years. That popularity means that WhatsApp is rapidly closing in on the beautiful ‘one billion’ users milestone, forcing the company to look at its current monetization strategy as part of that success.
The company sheds some insights into the problem in a blog post titled “Making WhatsApp free and more useful”:
As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well. Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they are 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.
It’s undoubtedly great news for the nearly one billion users of the app, but should they be concerned that the service may change as a result of this news? Like many other providers of similar services, WhatsApp will now need to come up with a roadmap that introduces a new monetization strategy which moves away from charging users for access. Integration of third-party ads has already been categorically rejected by WhatsApp as a non-starter. We’ve seen Facebook introduce features such as money transfer and hailing an Uber, into the Messenger app, so there’s a potential for WhatsApp to go down that route going forward.
What’s interesting is that that WhatsApp will “test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from”. Maybe the tagline of making WhatsApp more useful is going to come to fruition.
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