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.