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WhatsApp Becomes A Free Messaging Service, How Will It Affect You & Its Makers?

Facebook-owned mobile messaging service, WhatsApp is now completely free for all users. In a blog post on the company website, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum announced that the company will be dropping the service’s annual subscription fee of 0.99 USD (approximately Rs. 67) forever. If you haven’t been living under a rock for the past couple of years you must be aware that WhatsApp is free to download on all platforms but it asks users to cough up the nominal subscription fee once it allows you to freeload the service for a year. While most users like you and me might not have encountered the problem of renewing our subscription, some users report that they have been asked to shell out the cash. So now that WhatsApp has become free, how will it affect the company and you, the user? The answers are below.

WhatsApp Logo

How Will WhatApp Being Free Affect Its Users?

Let’s address WhatsApp’s biggest user base first, Indian citizens. A while back Neeraj Arora, Vice President of WhatsApp was quoted saying that WhatsApp had decided not charge its customers from developing countries like India because of lack of credit and debit card penetration in those countries. Almost each one of you would have had your subscription renewed for an additional year once it was closer to its expiry. In the blog post, the company’s founders have stated the same reason for discontinuing subscription service. They think that that the subscription approach hasn’t worked well for them as well as the users. The founders say that they are concerned about people’s fear of losing in touch with their near and dear ones after a year of free service.

WhatsApp Screenshot (2) WhatsApp Screenshot (4)
If you think that WhatsApp is doing this out of generosity, you are kidding yourself. If WhatsApp had started charging users in developing countries it would have lost its ground to feature-rich and free messaging apps like Hike, WeChat and Telegram. To maintain its leadership in the market, WhatsApp has mostly refrained from asking a majority of its users to buy a subscription. This announcement was just a way of straightening things out. If you have bought an annual subscription recently, then there is bad news for you. Re/code reports that WhatsApp will not be refunding that amount.

How Will WhatsApp Being Free Affect Its Makers?

This is where things might get tricky for the company that had promised to provide an ad-free service for its customers back in 2012. In this introductory note, WhatsApp founders Brian Acton & Jan Koum talk about their experience at Yahoo and explain why advertising is a burden over the customers as well as the developers. So, you might be wondering as to how WhatsApp will run its service without a revenue stream. WhatsApp responds by saying that they won’t be introducing third-party ads. The keyword here is ‘third-party’, WhatsApp is planning to test tools that shall let businesses and organisations you choose communicate with you via WhatsApp. WhatsApp says that it won’t be different from the way your bank informs to you about a transaction via text message.

WhatsApp Screenshot (1) WhatsApp Screenshot (3)

This is a situation where we see a red flag and companies around the world see a potential for advertising. For example, let’s say WhatsApp develops a tool for Myntra to send the same text messages about placing and delivering an order though WhatsApp, what is the guarantee that the e-commerce company won’t be using this tool to send constant chat messages about a dozen or so ‘sales’ that it organises in a year. WhatsApp says these messages aren’t different from what people are used to receiving either via SMS or phone calls but when it comes to constant bugging by notifications from an e-commerce app we have to choice to stop them by blocking the number or switching off push notifications. The tools that WhatsApp designs will favour companies because the latter will be getting a cheaper channel of communication to potential customers and WhatsApp will be planning to leverage this fact. As WhatsApp users we have to wait and see how WhatsApp executes its plans and express out satisfaction or outrage depending on the outcome.

Here is the point where we invite you the readers to discuss this topic in the comment section. Do you agree or disagree with our views? Let us know in the comment section below.
Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • Jan 18, 2016
Thanks for such nicely articulated news. It is indeed an alarming situation. However, I don't see other ways how they'd keep themselves afloat. Everyone should've seen it coming. Though these services are not after minting money right from the start, they do have these agendas at the back of their minds when they introduce it.

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