According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Facebook has halted its plans to introduce ads in WhatsApp's Status feed. Talk of advertisements in WhatsApp, and specifically interspersed among ephemeral statuses, has been going for over a year, with the service's VP confirming that in October of 2018. But those plans seem to be paused, for now at least.
WSJ cites "people familiar with the matter" who reported that the team responsible for finding ways to integrate ads into the service has been shut down, and its work has been deleted from the app's code. This was confirmed by renowned WhatsApp code sleuths WABetaInfo who said that all mentions of Status ads were removed from the app with beta version 2.19.356 (which dates back to December 4, 2019).
Facebook's plans to bring ads to WhatsApp aren't completely dead though, they're just on pause. Instead, the focus will be on monetizing WhatsApp Business and hoping to scoop back some of the $19 billion paid for the messaging service back in 2014.
Advertisement has been at the crux of the Facebook/WhatsApp story for years now. The messaging platform's co-founder Jan Koum had been vocally opposed to it since 2012, saying it's "the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought." His no-ads policy was even reiterated when WhatsApp changed its terms of service in 2016, despite Facebook's supervision. However, the clash between an ad-averse and privacy-championing co-founder and Facebook's reliance on data mining and ad targeting was inevitable, leading to Jan Koum's departure from Facebook last year.
WhatsApp declined to provide a comment to the WSJ, but perhaps this temporary respite brings Facebook some wisdom and other ideas about monetizing WhatsApp. No one expects 1.5 billion people to keep benefiting from the messaging platform for free and without them being profitable in some way, but charging for a free and beloved service or adding ads to it isn't the smartest move and can risk alienating many users. Providing paid add-ons, offering a premium tier, and especially charging businesses for professional features could be great alternatives.