Free WhatsApp service will eventually be a thing of the past for some users, but don’t worry too much. Facebook isn’t planning to charge everyone to use the messaging app, or at least not yet, anyway. Investors should at least be pleased, however, because they’ve been waiting years for the social media firm to cash in on its $22 billion investment.
No more free WhatsApp service… for businesses
WhatsApp Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema told Fox Business in an interview that they’re moving toward charging corporate users to use some features they’re planning to roll out soon. The messaging service began testing a pair of business tools over the summer, offering them free to the companies that have been testing them. However, they’re going to eventually start charging companies for those tools, putting an end to those parts of the free WhatsApp service.
The two tools enable companies of all sizes, from small to global, to communicate with customers via WhatsApp. When the messaging service starts charging companies to use the tools, it will be a departure from Facebook’s current monetization approach, which depends almost solely on ad dollars.
How the free WhatsApp service for businesses works
WhatsApp Business is currently a free app that enables customers to ask companies questions over the messaging app. Small businesses can also send customers updates of various kinds via the WhatsApp Business app, which targets small businesses. Bigger enterprises can use WhatsApp for these same functions but with a different free WhatsApp service which plugs them right into the messaging service’s main platform.
The messaging company has also pushed out a verified profile feature for companies, which will enable its users to tell the difference between businesses and individuals. WhatsApp announced today on its website that a green checkmark badge next to the user’s name on their profile designates that profile as having been verified as belonging to a business account.
A spokesperson for the messaging platform told Fox Business that companies in several countries are testing the free WhatsApp service. Firms in Europe, Brazil, Indonesia and India are all trying out the tools; the spokesperson said KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is one of the firms that are testing them. She also explained that WhatsApp users will have to opt in before businesses can contact them, which sounds like an attempt to keep messages sent via the platform from being clogged up by spam and unwanted junk messages. Users also have the option to block individual businesses from contacting them.
Idema did not give Fox Business any specifics as far as how the paid features will work for businesses or customers, adding that they don’t yet have the monetization details figured out. The blog post and FAQs page on the new business services are also very short and scant on information.