WhatsApp, the messaging service that everyone you know uses, was acquired for a very large sum of money (a mere $19 billion or so) by Facebook in 2014. It was about the same time that the company stopped charging an annual usage fee but it looks like the service is looking to make money again.
And they’re going to be doing this in new and unconventional ways. WhatsApp is reportedly testing out new, paid-for business features which could see the service evolving from a largely pure messaging service (with whichever features Facebook thinks users won’t notice have been ‘borrowed’ from elsewhere) into a slightly more business-oriented app. If you’re willing, as we mentioned, to pay for it.
According to a Reuters report, WhatsApp is working with startup accelerator Y Combinator and a few small business to test out new business features. This will involve businesses communicating with users via WhatsApp, with businesses paying the company for access to users.
We know what you’re thinking: That’s a terrible idea. But it’s only a terrible idea if you’re a user desperate to stay away from companies that want to sell you things. The money behind the service eventually has to turn WhatsApp into a profitable concern, after all. And it appears that steps are being taken to minimise any negative impact on users. WhatsApp is said to be concerned with possible spam, which would be very unwelcome by users.
Reuters has spoken to one of the companies apparently involved in the business tests. Called Cowlar, the company makes smart collars for cattle (think FitBit for cows) which could be set up to communicate with farmers via WhatsApp. This could, possibly, allow for real-time monitoring of cattle in the farming industry and it’s a feature that people would actually pay for.
WhatsApp has declined to comment on the report.