Lahore:There is good news for WhatsApp users—the popular messaging app will not charge a fee after one year of use. “We’re happy to announce that WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees,” the company said.WhatsApp has always been free to download and use for the first year. In fact, original users of the app, who joined WhatsApp when it started out six years back, were given a free lifetime service. But in recent years, the company introduced a subscription fee of 0.99 cents after the first free year. Technology websites quoted that it may be a few weeks before the payments infrastructure is completely out of all versions of the app and if you’ve already paid the 99 cents for the year then there won’t be a refund, though subscription fees will cease immediately.The announcement also implies that the Facebook-owned WhatsApp may potentially be forfeiting hundreds of millions in annual revenue. The messenger app that allows a quick, easy and inexpensive way to send messages, photos and videos, particularly popular in Europe, parts of Asia and South America, has seen incredible growth over the past few years and is just weeks away from hitting the billion user milestone, according to figures reported. It has currently 990 million users and growing.
Although the fee is negligible, the company admits that it has harmed its growth, particularly in developing countries where access to banking services is not so good. According to a report in The Guardian , developing markets are a key focus area for Facebook and WhatsApp since Messenger, Facebook’s home grown messaging service, has a strong penetration in the western markets, particularly the US. In contrast, WhatsApp leads the way in developing nations, including Brazil, India, Indonesia and South Africa.The blog post reiterates the same: “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 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.”
Does this mean then that the company will stay afloat by generating revenue via third party advertising?
“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.”