Facebook abandons plans to bring ads to WhatsApp for now

The social network reportedly changed focus to improving the business features to monetize WhatsApp

Facebook has reportedly backed off its plans to sell advertisements in WhatsApp.

According to the Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the matter said the company disbanded a team established to find ways to integrate ads into WhatsApp. Further, that team’s work was deleted from WhatsApp’s code.

It’s a dramatic shift for the massive social network, which has sought to monetize WhatsApp for years. Facebook purchased the instant messaging platform for $22 billion USD ($28.7 billion CAD) in 2014, which has yet to pay financial dividends despite having over 1.5 billion users globally.

Before the Facebook acquisition, WhatsApp made money from download fees and from a $0.99 annual subscription. Facebook made WhatsApp free after acquiring it and in 2018 unveiled plans to generate revenue from the platform by selling ads.

Last May, Facebook revealed prototypes for integrating advertisements into WhatsApp’s ‘Status’ feature, which works similarly to Instagram and Facebook Stories — themselves a rip of Snapchat Stories, an ephemeral way to share what you’re up to.

However, those plans have been put on hold as Facebook builds out business features to monetize the platform instead. Those features include communication tools for interacting with customers as well as ways to better manage those interactions.

Further, the WSJ notes that Facebook’s push to sell ads in WhatsApp was a significant factor in the decisions of Jan Koum and Brian Acton to resign. Koum and Acton, who created the service, were privacy advocates and were against selling ads on WhatsApp.

In 2016, the pair changed WhatsApp’s terms of service to forbid displaying ads. While Facebook has changed terms of service before, doing so to display ads would have required formal notification to be sent to users, potentially creating a public relations nightmare for the company.

Ultimately, WhatsApp users can rest easy for now, knowing that ads won’t come to their platform any time soon. Further, Facebook won’t be able to sneak ads into WhatsApp — it’ll have to notify users. In other words, users will have plenty of warning before ads arrive on the instant messaging platform, and plenty of time to jump ship if they so choose.

Source: Wall Street Journal