After a year of rumors and the departure of both co-founders, WhatsApp is officially getting ads. Vice-president Chris Daniels confirmed to Outlook India today that the days of an ad-free platform are numbered: "We are going to be putting ads in 'Status.' That is going to be [the] primary monetisation mode for the company as well as an opportunity for businesses to reach people on WhatsApp."
The 'Status' section is WhatsApp's take on Instagram Stories, itself cribbed from Snapchat's core feature set. Users can share text, photos, videos, and GIFs that disappear 24 hours after posting. Daniels was not quoted as mentioning another possible revenue stream for the messaging service — charging business users for automated messages to customers.
The news is expected — co-founder Brian Acton has been very vocal about his distaste for Facebook's monetization plans — but it remains disappointing to many. Way back in 2012, the company posted an impassioned blog post entitled: "Why we don't sell ads." It said that when advertising is involved "you the user are the product," and even started with a Fight Club quote — "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need."
But WhatsApp sold to Facebook in 2014 for roughly $19 billion, and after that it was a struggle to hold true to the original vision, according to Acton. "At the end of the day, I sold my company," he told Forbes in September. "I sold my users' privacy to a larger benefit. I made a choice and a compromise. I live with that every day." The privacy issues he's referring to include pressure from Facebook to let it access WhatsApp users' phone numbers and to publish targeted ads using customer data.
Many Reddit users were unhappy with the change and said they were considering a switch to a new secure messaging service, like Signal or Telegram — though they're far less popular than WhatsApp, which has over 1.5 billion users globally. But some were sympathetic, suggesting that subscription charges wouldn't be accepted by the community. Still others responded that they'd been happy paying the $1 per year charge that WhatsApp experimented with several years ago.
Regardless, the decision has been made. Though Daniels didn't lay out a timeline for when the ads will appear, reports have suggested that targeted ads will arrive on the platform beginning in 2019.
- Outlook India