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WhatsApp Now Free Forever, 1-Year Subscription Fee Removed

WhatsApp on Monday announced that it was removing the nominal around 99 cents yearly subscription fee for the service. This means WhatsApp, which was earlier free for only first year of use, is now truly free for use. The announcement was made by WhatsApp founder Jan Koum at the DLD conference in Munich, Germany.

“It really doesn’t work that well,” said Koum, as reported by Recode. “We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off.”

However, even though the subscription fee was nominal it was one albeit very small source of the revenue for the site. With that gone, it wasn’t clear how WhatsApp would make money. Although the service is owned by Facebook and has enough resources to keep manage its business even if it doesn’t directly earn any revenue through the WhatsApp app. Also, the service was earlier made free in a few countries including India .

It also seems that just like Facebook WhatsApp may experiment with advertising even though when Mark Zuckerberg bought the app he and Koum both emphasised that WhatsApp would never serve advertisements like other chat apps.

According to Recode, the company plans to connect businesses and brands with consumers and earn money in the process. “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,” the company reportedly told Recode.

“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.”

Even though WhatsApp has become the dominant chat app in the world with over 900 million active users, it has lagged behind in its monetisation efforts compared to apps like WeChat. Instead of being a simple chat app, WeChat has tried to turn itself into a platform that could support everything from gaming to e-retail transactions.

Apps like WeChat have also explored ways to make money through add-on services like stickers.

It is possible that by exploring ways to connect people with brands, WhatsApp too is trying to turn itself into a platform. However, the company still wants to keep the WhatsApp experience intact.

“What we decided was that over the long term, the ads and monetisation would perform better if there was an organic interaction between people using the product and businesses,” said Koum. “So instead of focusing on ads first, what we did was we built pages, and we made that free, that way as many businesses as possible could get into the network.”

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