WhatsApp is dropping the $1 annual subscription fee and it will start to test out more commercial services in line with a revision of its revenue model.
According to Techcrunch, these changes were announced at the DLD conference in Germany where the CEO of WhatsApp also discussed some of the differences between the IM platform, which is owned by Facebook and Facebook’s Messenger.
An accompanying blog post from WhatsApp also announced the end of the subscription model, pointing out how some subscribers to the service have been excluded from making payments because they do not have the necessary credit and debit card numbers. This sort of challenge is more prevalent in emerging markets where WhatsApp has the majority of its 900 million subscribers.
No adverts headed our way
Interestingly in the same communication, the WhastApp team has reiterated its stance against in-app advertising referencing instead the plans to transform the service into a B2C platform.
Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you wantto 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.
This sounds a lot like the type of services that Facebook’s Messenger app has been focused on developing since an announcement last year at its f8 conference. This makes the IM application a platform and not just a messaging client.
Like the subscription service which users in markets like ours weren’t affected by in the first place, (Zimbabweans use WhatsApp extensively but aren’t bothered for subscription) the changes might not immediately have a huge impact on the use of the app.
However, they do suggest a different approach in the development of revenue streams for free apps that developers and entrepreneurs might be keen on understanding more intently.