Facebook’s WhatsApp is now free, according to WhatsApp’s founder Jan Koum who announced Monday that the company is dropping the service’s annual subscription fee in an effort to remove the barriers some users faced in using the service.
According to a post on Whatsapp’s blog, it says, “We’re happy to announce that WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees. For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well. Many 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 we will no longer charge you for our service.”
As far as a new business model, WhatsApp says it will explore ways businesses can use the service to connect with individuals, but said the goal is to avoid spam and unwanted advertising.
Here’s what they saying about that, according to a company blog post:
NATURALLY, PEOPLE MIGHT WONDER HOW WE PLAN TO KEEP THE BUSINESS RUNNING WITHOUT SUBSCRIPTION FEES AND IF TODAY’S ANNOUNCEMENT MEANS WE’RE INTRODUCING THIRD-PARTY ADS. THE ANSWER IS NO. STARTING THIS YEAR, WE WILL TEST TOOLS THAT ALLOW YOU TO USE WHATSAPP TO COMMUNICATE WITH BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS THAT YOU WANT TO HEAR FROM. 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, WHILE STILL GIVING YOU AN EXPERIENCE WITHOUT THIRD-PARTY ADS AND SPAM.
If you’ve already paid the 99 cents for the year then there won’t be a refund, but subscription fees will cease immediately.
WhatsApp now has nearly 1 billion users, so the free timing removes the barrier for millions more to join the messaging service. The Facebook-owned service plans appears to be planning to generate revenue through services to businesses. “We will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.” That means you might be able to send messages to your bank or airlines in the future.
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