WhatsApp drops yearly subscription fee, looks to woo businesses instead

Rob Attrell

January 18, 2016 7:14am

As of last September, WhatsApp, the Facebook-owned messaging service, had over 900 million monthly active users. While that makes it the most popular third-party messaging service by a significant margin, a $0.99 per year subscription fee made many customers consider free alternatives first. Facebook’s other chat service, Facebook Messenger, is already the choice of many North American users, while WhatsApp has historically been more popular elsewhere around the world.

This morning, WhatsApp announced that it will be dropping subscription fees completely in a few weeks. Income from these fees didn’t lead to massive profits, and many WhatsApp users don’t have easy access to credit cards. The company will instead be exploring ways to let businesses use the service to communicate with their customers, similarly to what Facebook Messenger is doing.

Jay Koum, the founder of WhatsApp, said that dropping subscription fees doesn’t mean ads will be coming to the platform. Rather, the goal is to give businesses the option to communicate with customers via WhatsApp as opposed to relying on email or SMS.

The company will stop charging fees immediately, but it may be a few weeks until all WhatsApp versions are updated to reflect the move away from subscriptions. Until now WhatsApp has offered users one free year of service before requiring a $0.99 subscription fee.

WhatsApp is available on iOSAndroid, BlackBerry and Windows Phone.

  • I guess this is the new ad. I seen it on bbm and kik. The sponsored contacts

  • Eluder

    I signed up to Whatsapp so many years ago that I had a lifetime free account. Hopefully they don’t screw me into getting some sort of ads within the app.

    • Columbo

      Oh, ads are coming. Don’t doubt it for a second.

  • OmniWrench

    I’m curious how high the annual fee would have to be to cover these “allegedly not ads” ads. I’d easily pay multiples of the $1/a year. $5, $10, $20/year for no ads? I doubt I’d even stop to think about it…

  • acb87

    ive never paid anything for whatsapp. and i dont know anyone else who has . its says 99 cents but 3 years later i still haven’t paid anything

    • Crossed

      Me too. I check my credit card statements religiously and I have never seen a single charge.

    • Abel

      I didn’t even enter cc info ever (I also registered around 3-4 years ago).

      That being said, I think I read somewhere a while ago that they didn’t charge in some markets (North America, for instance), probably due to the competition of other platforms.

    • Tyrannosaur3464

      Yeah.. You’re right. Same here, been using it nearly three years.

  • Raj Singh

    Not sure why but I’ve never had to pay the 99 cents.

  • GPman

    Here in Hong Kong it is a huge business tool. It is rare to see an ad for a company or anything that has contact information that doesn’t include a WhatsApp contact number. Even tiny stores use it. It’s a standard here.