FACEBOOK IS LOOKING to cash in on WhatsApp by charging sloppy businesses to send messages to customers.
The social network on Wednesday announced the launch of the WhatsApp Business API, which will allow companies to respond to messages from users for free for up to 24 hours but will charge them a fixed rate by country per message sent after that.
This is a clever move by Facebook. Not only will it help 1.5-billion-user-strong WhatsApp start contributing to its revenues for the first time since it dropped its subscription fee in 2016, but it might also motivate slapdash businesses to respond to customer queries quickly.
The messages are set to cost between 0.5 cents to 9 cents (0.3p to 7p) a message depending on the country the user is based in.
WhatsApp will also charge companies a "fixed rate" to send customised notifications with "non-promotional content" such as shipping confirmations, appointment reminders or event tickets
"With this approach, you will continue to have full control over the messages you receive. Businesses will pay to send certain messages so they are selective and your chats don't get cluttered," WhatsApp said in a blog post. "In addition, messages will remain end-to-end encrypted and you can block any business with the tap of a button."
The new features will also enable business to buy advertisements on Facebook's News Feed that allow users to message them via WhatsApp. And, according to reports, WhatsApp will also reportedly be launching ads in its Status feature, a tool similar to Instagram stories.
Uber, Singapore Airlines and online store Wish are among the first companies to adopt WhatApp's new biz features, according to Facebook's announcement, which also reveals that WhatsApp's dedicated Business app now has more than three million users.
The new WhatsApp business features come as Facebook's growth begins to stagnates, with the firm missing analyst estimates in its quarterly earnings last week. During its earnings call, the social network admitted that it lost one million active monthly users since the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into effect. µ
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