It’s official: WhatsApp is cracking the whip on unofficial third party services that have been riding on its success to give users of the instant messenger a different experience.
Last night several users of WhatsApp Plus, a hugely popular modded version of the IM platform, were served with a 24 hour ban for violating terms and conditions of the message service.
While you can be excluded from WhatsApp for a host of other violations, (it’s all in the Ts and Cs really) this reprimand was for the use of an unofficial version of WhatsApp that the messenger has distanced itself from.
Even though this version interacts with the official WhatsApp by accessing the WhatsApp servers it has no ties to the Facebook owned company. This backdoor access comes with a lot of risks for its users which centre on issues of potential privacy violation and an unsupported application. This is the main reason why WhatsApp which has been more particular about privacy concerns is now moving on any service that can encroach on that privilege.
So if it’s such a bad service why is it so popular anyway? The last time we spoke about WhatsApp Plus I personally rallied for the service and though it’s being gated off I still give it a thumbs up. Like the many other users that are now on this 24 hour time-out I still think this grey service says a lot about how we use and appreciate web based technologies.
The luxuries of customisation, affordability and ignorance
The fact that it gives you the ability to customise and enhance your Instant Message experience means a lot in an open source environment. It’s what users of Android have always reveled in, what with open access to any app that doesn’t have to come from the official app store.
That’s the main selling point for WhatsApp Plus, WhatsApp MD or any other hacked or cracked service that can continue to give users an experience beyond the ordinary.
There’s more to WhatsApp Plus’s continued rise though. In Harare you only have to look at the countless street side vendors that are making a quick buck by installing WhatsApp, digital bibles and music on phones.
All this is supposed to be more a more affordable alternative to downloading it using your own mobile data that could run out before you complete the process.
These “Physical App Stores” have extended the offer of an Instant Messenger to include WhatsApp Plus which also isn’t such a hard sell considering that it works just as well as the ordinary WhatsApp and comes with all these frills.
After all, who wouldn’t be drawn to the possibility of sending larger media files on WhatsApp. Yes, size does matter, even in this case. With the messenger becoming one of the most affordable ways to share content thanks to bundles, an option to get more from that $3 unlimited monthly subscription means a lot to subscribers.
However I think what underpins all of this is an ignorance for how to access applications for mobile devices and all the risks that come with unofficial apps on your device.
As long as a large percentage of mobile phone users aren’t too concerned with Ts and Cs for services, the potential dangers of an infringement of privacy and unsupported digital services (apps are literally being “bought” on the street after all) WhatsApp Plus or any other third party service that WhatsApp or Facebook has to swat will thrive.