WhatsApp, a popular messaging tool Facebook owns, will soon employ a more profit-focused business model.
A new report by the Wall Street Journal claims that the app will start charging high-profile businesses and large-scale companies to use some upcoming features that will be included in the two free business tools it started testing recently.
The new business tools primarily serve businesses by allowing them to talk to customers over the app.
"We want to put a basic foundation in place to allow people to message businesses and for them to get the responses that they want," said WhatsApp COO Matt Idema. "We do intend on charging businesses in the future."
Essentially, what this means is Facebook has opted for a different profit model than advertising revenue.
WhatsApp For Business
The free WhatsApp Business app in testing will allow small businesses to send customers updates and respond to their questions. WhatsApp may also charge larger enterprises for a host of communication tools to reach users.
WhatsApp is also testing its own "verified" badges, akin to Twitter. If an account or a profile has such a badge, other users will know they're legitimate businesses or companies. At present, companies in Brazil, Europe, Indonesia, and India are testing the services.
Business accounts on WhatsApp won't be intrusive — users must first opt-in to be contacted by businesses.
The company failed to share more information about its new business model, including specific pricing of paid features, in addition to a rollout schedule. Idema said WhatsApp hasn't figured monetization aspects yet.
What Is WhatsApp Trying To Be?
What's the upshot here? Why is WhatsApp opening its platform to businesses? Well, according to TechCrunch, the company said it wants to be the app that people can use if they want to place orders at a local bakery. Users could also look at new styles from a clothing store. WhatsApp wants "shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from a single smartphone."
This sounds eerily familiar. There's also an app extremely popular in China that acts as a sort of omnibus toolbox that can do nearly everything — WeChat. It's not just an app but a whole platform altogether, letting users make a payment, hail a cab, pay bills, and even send a bitcoin.
By the looks of it, WhatsApp is in the early stages of evolving into a platform that has everything. Of course, that's just mere prediction, but it makes sense. Uber or Lyft, for example, could integrate with WhatsApp somehow for ride-hailing services.
WhatsApp currently has 1.3 billion monthly users and a billion people use it daily. It's massive enough to earn money with very few ads, and it stands to reason that charging enterprises will make balloon profits further.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for a whopping $19 billion. It's high time for the messaging app to prove the purchase was worth it.