WhatsApp has backtracked on earlier plans to place advertisements within the hugely-popular chat app, which is currently used by some 1.5 billion users worldwide each month. The messaging app, which was bought by Facebook back in 2014 for an eye-watering sum of $19 billion (£14.5billion), has looked for ways to monetise its vast user base.
After it acquired the messaging app, Facebook removed the annual 99p subscription fee (WhatsApp previously charged 99p for the initial download, before switching to the subscription model, with the first year of messaging on the app free) in order to help the cross-platform app grow. According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal, Facebook has dismantled the team it has tasked with introducing adverts across WhatsApp. All of their work has now been “deleted from WhatsApp’s code”.
That said, Facebook still has ideas to bring advertisements into WhatsApp. Earlier plans to bring adverts into the Status feature – which lets you share short videos and photos with friends and family that expire after 24-hours à la Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories – are still on the table, The Wall Street Journal claims. But thankfully, plans to fill the main messaging app with adverts, like the ones that populate the News Feed on Facebook, have been shelved for the time being.
Instead, Facebook could boost revenue from WhatsApp by focussing on WhatsApp Business – a standalone app that leverages the same chat technology found in the main app to allow people to talk with customer service representatives from businesses. So, rather than using the sometimes clunky Instant Chat windows on support websites, you’re able to use the same WhatsApp chat window that you already use every day with your friends.
In the most recent update, Facebook introduced the ability to browse shopping catalogues within WhatsApp Business. Although it doesn’t allow you to buy anything at the moment, it seems likely the functionality will be coming in a future update. WhatsApp Business is available from the App Store on iOS and Google Play Store on Android in a number of countries, including the UK, United States, Brazil, Germany, India, Indonesia, and Mexico.
The news comes as WhatsApp introduced a small update to its messaging app that introduced Facebook branding front-and-centre for the first time.
Now, whenever you load up the app, you’ll be met with a “From Facebook” banner in the lower third of the screen, coloured with a fetching shade of bile-green. The Facebook logo is in block capitals – a new look logo unveiled by the company in November 2019 to help distinguish the parent company from its eponymous social network. Its arrival in WhatsApp is designed to create a greater sense of cohesion between its properties, which include Instagram and WhatsApp.
The addition of the Facebook logo – and the increased awareness of the sheer scale of Facebook’s reach – might not be the best move from the company. After all, thousands of users are abandoning their profile on the sprawling social network, mostly younger users.
According to Cork-based Mulley Communications, the only age demographic not fleeing Facebook is the 50 and older age category. Its research found that 200,000 users within the 13-35 age category left within the last twelve months in Ireland alone. With WhatsApp and Instagram now seeing mind-bogglingly high user engagement from these users, it could be a bad move to intrinsically link these platforms with the stagnating Facebook in younger users’ mind. Especially with rivals like SnapChat and TikTok – both of which are witnessing huge growth with younger users – chomping at their heels in the App Store and Google Play Store charts.
Facebook is working towards uniting all of its messaging properties – including Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. This unified end-to-end encrypted messaging system should make it easier to roll-out the same technologies across all platforms, stickers, GIFs, and more, with a single piece of code. As it stands, all three apps (two of which were acquired by Facebook after being established as their own companies, using their own code and systems) works separately and get features on their own timetable.
One example of this, while Facebook has already been able to roll-out support for dark mode (the gloomier system-wide appearance introduced with iOS 13 and Android 10 designed to ease your eyes at night and squeeze more juice from your smartphone battery) on Facebook Messenger on mobile and desktop, WhatsApp still shows no signs of supporting the feature. Instagram also supports dark mode, but only recently confirmed the ability to send Direct Messages (DMs) on the web – something WhatsApp users have enjoyed for years.