WhatsApp’s founder Jan Koum has announced today that the widely-used messaging service is now free to customers. The Facebook-owned company is dropping its subscription service immediately. While it’s only 99 cents per year to use WhatsApp‘s multi-platform messenger app, Koum states that the annual subscription was still a barrier to some users…
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Koum says the subscription model “really doesn’t work that well,” and notes that although the fee isn’t high, not everyone has access to credit cards, and so some users aren’t able to sign up, and some can end up being unable to use the service.
The subscription model ends immediately, but it will take a little while to take the built-in payments options from all versions of the app. As a downer, those who have already paid a subscription fee recently won’t get their dollar back.
For those worrying that an end of subscription fees means the app will start using ads to monetize its service, you’ll be glad to know that’s not the case. WhatsApp will find other ways to make money:
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.
The goal here is clearly to get even more people on to its service. As it stands, WhatsApp is one of the most widely used messaging apps on the planet. Thanks to its ability to run on virtually any mobile platform and remotely from within a desktop browser, there aren’t many places you can’t message friends and family, regardless of where you (or they) are in the world.
As much as it’s a bummer that WhatsApp isn’t refunding recent subscriptions, it’s great to see the company look for ways other than built-in pop-up ads to monetize the service.