Popular messaging and calling client WhatsApp Messenger used to be free for the first year, and then $0.99 per year after that. In an announcement on the app’s blog today, Jan. 18, WhatsApp has revealed that it’s doing away with the yearly subscription fees. Instead, the developers will try to find other ways to make money from the software and service.
Does that mean things like in-app advertisements? According to the blog post, that won’t be the case. In fact, an earlier post points out that one of the goals the developers had when they first began the project three years ago was to “make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse.”
Instead, WhatsApp will begin testing tools that allow businesses and organizations you’re already working with and want to hear from better ways to communicate with you. This could mean your bank contacting you through WhatsApp about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent. Alternatively, it could be your airline letting you know the bad news about your flight being canceled or delayed.
Why the change? The developers point out, quite frankly, that the subscription model hasn’t worked out very well for them.
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.
The various versions of WhatsApp haven’t all been updated yet to remove the payment interface in the software. In fact, the iTunes App Store description still points out the yearly subscription cost. You should expect that to go away as new versions roll out to the App Store.
The change in strategy is interesting, and I’m anxious to see how it plays out. There could definitely be some privacy concerns here, with the app sharing contact information with businesses and possibly with parent company Facebook. I hope that won’t turn out to be the case, but we’ll have to keep watching to see what happens with the shift in how WhatsApp Messenger is designed to make money to keep the service alive.
WhatsApp Messenger is designed for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and requires iOS 6 or later. You can download it for free on the App Store.