WhatsApp founder Jan Koum announced today that the highly popular messaging app is going completely free… forever. This means that users won’t have to pay $0.99 a year to use the service because, as Koum puts it, “It really doesn’t work that well”.
“It really doesn’t work that well,” Koum said Monday, speaking at the DLD conference in Munich. He noted that while a buck a year might not sound like much, access to credit cards is not ubiquitous. “We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off.”
He also notes that some people don’t have credit cards or access to one, which would cause potential users not to sign up. So by making WhatsApp free, the company hopes to attract more potential customers.
However the service is going free forever, people are wondering, “How are they gonna make money now?” And a lot of them assume third-party advertisements placed within various locations in the app, which is something that turns users away from lots of different apps. Koum has confirmed that this won’t be the case.
Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight. We all get these messages elsewhere today – through text messages and phone calls – so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam.
A similar approach has been taken by Facebook’s Messenger app, the company’s other standalone messaging service. With Messenger, Facebook already offers users the chance to chat with businesses, and it’s building out other features, like payments or the ability to hail a ride through Uber.
There’s no doubt some users have just had their subscriptions recently renewed for WhatsApp, so these people might be wondering, “Wait! Am I gonna get my money back?” Well, unfortunately not, as the company has announced that they won’t be issuing refunds to any of their users. So that means you’re not gonna get that dollar back for your Dunkin’ Donuts coffee tomorrow morning. Sorry. 🙁
This move to free forever will, under any circumstances, bring in more customers to WhatsApp’s service, and now that it’s free and I’m not yet a member, I’m considering signing up for it and giving it a shot. What do you think? Are you not yet a member of WhatsApp and are now considering signing up? Leave a comment and let us know!