WhatsApp, the go to texting app for most people these days. It was founded in by 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum. Koum actually continued to be the part of the WhatsApp team post acquisition, but left a few months ago this year, citing difference in ideology with Facebook, the owners of WhatsApp.
Back in 2009, Android was just getting started, it wasn’t as widespread as it is now. Most premium phones like the iPhones and Blackberrys had their own proprietary messaging softwares like BBM. WhatsApp when it launched, didn’t have a lot of competition. There was viber and a few other companies offering messaging apps, but WhatsApp primarily saw success because of it’s simplicity and adoption.
Like any service, WhatsApp needed to monetize their service to keep it running. They put in a very simple and cheap payment plan. This first year was absolutely free, so people were accustomed. After that it was only 1$ per year.
In 2014, Facebook was extremely interested in buying WhatsApp. For one, WhatsApp had a massive user base and secondly, this would let Facebook mine huge amounts of data out of their reach.
You see Facebook isn’t really doing any charity by keeping their services free, you pay them through the data they collect from you. Now this data is mostly used for targeted advertising, but sometimes serious breaches can take place, like the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 Billion, which was a huge sum for a company that didn’t generate a lot of revenue. After the acquisition, WhatsApp was made completely free, and Facebook promised to uphold WhatsApp’s privacy features.
How ads will work on WhatsApp?
After viewing a certain number of statuses, WhatsApp might show an Ad. https://t.co/Ib4RkVCDmh
— WABetaInfo (@WABetaInfo) September 27, 2018
But according to WABetaInfo, Facebook might already be planning to test ads on WhatsApp recently. There’s isn’t really a lot of information to know how they are going to implement it, but reports suggest that after swiping through a few status bars, you might see an AD.
This isn’t really surprising, Facebook is a private company which is looking to generate income in every way possible. $19 Billion is a lot of money, so there was no way Facebook was going to leave WhatsApp unmonetised.
In fact Facebook probably always wanted to dilute the end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp, which would help them mine more data, but WhatsApp’s team didn’t comply. Eventually though, WhatsApp did give Facebook access to contact lists and basic information on the device and OS.
Users shouldn’t expect Facebook to not profit from WhatsApp, as there are server costs and also maintaining employees. But Facebook should be very transparent about the kind of data they share, so users can make the choice for themselves. There should also be the option to pay for the service to opt out of any targeted advertising and data collection. Transperancy goes a long way, helping big companies and users see eye to eye.