WhatsApp is, by far, the most popular messaging app worldwide. Its simplicity, combined with the fact that it was the first messaging app to gain popularity on Android (back when many of us didn’t even have smartphones yet), contributed to its growth over the years, to the extent that it was eventually acquired by the then Facebook (now Meta).
But we must not overlook a significant factor that made everyone start using WhatsApp and continue to do so to this day: it’s free (remember the days of SMS?). While there was a time (before Meta acquired it) when the company experimented with a “symbolic” payment of about one euro, the app is currently 100% free on both Android and iOS platforms.
However, this might change soon. Earlier this month, we reported that WhatsApp, according to the Financial Times, was exploring the possibility of incorporating ads in the app to monetize it. Some of the sources consulted by the publication even mentioned the potential introduction of a subscription fee that would allow users to use the app without seeing advertisements.
In response to this information, WhatsApp’s head, Will Cathcart, stated in a Twitter post that the company wasn’t doing that. Two months later, he clarified his response in an interview with a Brazilian media outlet, affirming that “that” referred only to inserting ads in the inbox (chats), not in other places like the recent channels.
“The reason I clarified the response is that there might be ads in other places: channels or statuses. For example, channels might charge for subscriptions, be exclusive to paying members, or owners might want to promote the channel. But no, we won’t put ads in your inbox,” stated Cathcart.
Will this measure be well-received by users? Will they reconsider if they observe a widespread negative response? We’ll have to wait and see WhatsApp’s move.