WhatsApp scraps the fee none of us ever seem to have paid

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Facebook-owned instant messaging service WhatsApp has scrapped the $1, one-time fee it supposedly used to charge some users in some parts of the world in an effort to get more people — particularly those in emerging and presumably cash-strapped markets — using the service, rather than rival services like WeChat, Line or Telegram Messenger.

“[W]e’re happy to announce that WhatsApp will no longer charge subscription fees. For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well,” reads a statement on the WhatsApp blog.

“Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.”

Cue lots of head scratching in the Stuff office. None of us can recall ever paying a subscription fee, though the Android users among us do recall being told at sign up that the first year was free, but they’d be billed for the service thereafter… only none of them ever were. As they say on the internet: ¯_(ツ)_/¯

“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.”

Frankly, that sounds like a fate worse than ads. It sounds a lot like SMS spam for the IM generation. But perhaps we’re just being cynical. How very unlike us that would be. In the meantime, WhatsApp is now totally free! Or more free than it was. Or something. Aside from, you know, the data costs you incur by using it.

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