WhatsApp revealed that its annual subscription fee of $1 will no longer take effect in the coming weeks.
The announcement came from WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who attended the DLD conference that took place in Munich, Germany.
As the app approaches its next milestone of gaining 1 billion users, the company marks the occasion by looking for ways to focus more on the app's other commercial potentials by establishing a B2C business model that will involve large corporate entities such as Bank of America.
It should be noted that WhatsApp has so far required users to pay a $1 annual subscription, which becomes effective after their first year of using the app. In other words, the app was free for one year, and cost $1 per year after that.
In a company blog post, WhatsApp explains that this subscription fee is a problem in many countries, and it wants all users to be able to freely communicate with the world. He added that there are some users who didn't have credit cards to use for paying off the subscription fee while noting that other messaging apps such as Facebook Messenger remained free from subscription charges.
As such, WhatsApp is getting rid of this subscription fee, making the app free for users even after the first year.
With this announcement, users have begun to wonder how the company would be able to keep the app running even when there are no subscription fees coming in. There is also a speculation that the move is a way for the company to start posting third-party ads through the app.
WhatsApp responded that while the app is keeping its platform ad-free, it will be testing some tools that would establish communication between the users and businesses.
"We will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from," WhatsApp further explains on its official blog. "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."
With the dollar-worth annual subscription fee being removed, it may be safe to assume that users who have been carrying second thoughts on using WhatsApp may just feel a little more relieved. It remains to be seen just how soon the app can hit the exact 1 billion mark of active monthly users given the fact that it already hit 900 million back in September.
WhatsApp Video Calling is expected to further boost the app's user base, as well.