Thursday 12 December 2019

WhatsApp drops annual subscription fee


James Titcomb

WhatsApp is dropping its annual subscription fee and plans to rely on business accounts for revenue.

The messaging app's founder Jan Koum announced the move on Monday. The app, bought by Facebook for $19 billion (£13 billion) in 2014, had charged an annual fee of $1, or for those who downloaded it before July 2013, an up front fee.

However, Koum promised that WhatsApp would not follow Facebook and Instagram in introducing adverts, saying that it would fund itself with business accounts.

"Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from," Koum said.

"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."

Businesses might pay a fee to run an official customer support channel via WhatsApp. Twitter has become a popular way for people to speak to businesses in real-time, and this was one of the key reasons why Twitter increased the character limit for direct messages last year.

WhatsApp has almost a billion users around the world, and many of them don't have credit or debit cards to pay the fee, even if it is marginal. This meant that they would lose access to the app after having it for free for the first year.

Since buying Instagram in 2013, Facebook has added picture and video adverts, and the service has introduced new features and apps. WhatsApp, meanwhile, has changed remarkably little, with its major changes being the introduction of voice calling and the the blue tick read receipts.

Many of the app's users do not pay a subscription fee because they paid for the app up front, before it became a subscription service in 2013.

Also in Business