Whatsapp co-founder Jan Koum has announced that the messaging app will drop its annual 69p in-app subscription fee within the next few weeks. But the hugely popular Facebook-owned app plans to introduce a worrying new revenue stream to replace the yearly cost to users.
The WhatsApp creator made the announcement at the Digital-Life-Design Conference in Munich.
WhatsApp which is free to download on all mobile devices and allow users send text, video and audio around the world using a wifi or mobile data connection now boasts a staggering 900 million users across the globe, normally charge users a yearly 69p subscription to keep the messenger ad-free.
But that could be about to change as Founder Mr Koum said the subscription model “really doesn’t work for some people” and that other cross-platform messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger, are completely free to use.
WhatsApp plans to replace the 69p charge by connecting companies directly with users via the app.
Mr Koum admitted they have not settled on a final plan yet, but as it stands, it appears WhatsApp will charge multi-national companies to conduct customer service chats and calls via WhatsApp.
For example, an airline could use the app to contact customers about a flight cancellation or upcoming delays.
WhatsApp says despite the changes, its goal remains to avoid spam and unwanted advertising within the hugely-successful app.
In an official blog post, the messaging firm wrote:
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.
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 on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.
Select US companies have been given the opportunity to pay for the ability to message their customers directly via the app.
Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Wehner confirmed the possible business-to-consumer (B2C) integration at a technology conference in Boston.
“We think that enabling that B2C messaging has good business potential for us,” he said.