No More Annual Fees for WhatsApp Users (No Ads, Either)

By David Cohen Comment

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Attention, WhatsApp users: Don’t spend that $0.99 in one place.

The Facebook-owned cross-platform messaging application announced Monday that it would no longer collect its $0.99 annual subscription fee for users in their second years and beyond. The app had been free-of-charge for users in their first year.

WhatsApp also announced that it had no plans to add third-party ads, but it would begin testing tools for businesses to communicate with users via the app, similar to what Facebook Messenger has been doing.

WhatsApp said in a blog post announcing the move:

We’re happy to announce that WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees. For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well. Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number, and they worried that they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.

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.

WhatsApp co-founder and Facebook board member Jan Koum actually broke the news of the app’s abolition of subscription fees at the DLD Conference in Munich, saying, as reported by Re/code:

It really doesn’t work that well. We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off.

And on the addition of options for businesses to communicate with WhatsApp users, Koum added:

We haven’t written a single line of code yet.

Readers: What do you think of the move by WhatsApp to no longer collect annual subscription fees?

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