WHATSAPP IS to drop its annual subscription fee of 69p and attempt to make money instead by letting organisations talk to people in messages.
Co-founder Jan Koum explained that free is the right way to go because the current structure "really doesn't work that well", for the reason that people might miss a payment and lose access because they can't get to a credit card.
"For many years, we've asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we've grown, we've found that this approach hasn't worked well," said WhatsApp in a blog post.
"Many WhatsApp users don't have a debit or credit card and they worried they'd lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we'll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service."
However, allowing businesses to talk to users in messages could be more annoying than the 69p fee, depending on who has control - the user or the company.
But WhatsApp insisted that the change is about making the messaging app "more useful" and that the firm won't make up the lost subscription money through advertising. Instead, the update will let people talk to companies or organisations, which we assume will pay for the privilege.
"Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and whether today's announcement means we're introducing third-party ads. The answer is no," the company explained.
"Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from."
WhatsApp said this could allow people to communicate with their bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, for example, 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," said the firm. µ
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