On Thursday, Facebook told CNBC that it charges businesses for sending select messages to customers like boarding passes or product receipts, but the costs vary on market and quantity of messages sent. Although, Facebook one of the leading online social media and social networking service provider communicated its plans to charge for some of its WhatsApp business services, the company didn’t provide details on what additional services it plans to charge for, or how much these services will cost.
WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Kan Koum, former Yahoo employees who were lured by the potential of the app industry on the App Store and hit the idea of creating a freeware cross-platform messaging and Voice Over IP service that allows users to send text messages, voice messages make voice and video calls, share images, documents and other media. In fact, before venturing into WhatsApp, at one point of time the founders applied for jobs at Facebook but were rejected.
With the introduction of Apple push notifications in 2009, Koum changed WhatsApp to enable user network notification feature when a user’s status is changed. This feature allowed users to be pinged when they were not using an app. Shortly after WhatsApp 2.0 version was released with a messaging feature and by 2013 there were about 200 million active WhatsApp users.
On February, 2014 Facebook Inc. acquired WhatsApp at $19 billion with the idea to develop a group of basic internet services that would be free of charge to use. His own words capture his vision perfectly –“These could be a social networking service like Facebook, a messaging service, maybe search and other things like weather. Providing a bundle of these free of charge to users will work like a gateway drug of sorts – users who may be able to afford data services and phones these days just don’t see the point of why they would pay for those data services. This would give them some context for why they are important, and that will lead them to paying for more services like this – or so the hope goes.”
For quite some time now, WhatsApp business enables small and medium businesses to chat with customers, provide support and sell products directly. Facebook aspires to offer services like hosting, to help partners manage chat messages with clients, inventory and more. WhatsApp Business has more than 50 million business users and it is estimated that approximately 175 million people around the world message a business each day.
At present, Facebook relies almost entirely on Facebook and Instagram to generate revenue but now it will look to the encrypted messaging platform to whip up meaningful revenue from WhatsApp. Although to the millions of WhatsApp users this announcement may seem like bursting the bubble, Facebook’s assurance that it will invest a part of the revenue from business sales to continue to offer free services to its more than two billion WhatsApp users appears to add a touch of silver lining in this situation of doom and gloom.