WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook, has been free since launch for all users for the first year. After that, users had to pay roughly a dollar ($0.99) every year for continued access to the service. If you remember well, this came to be after some changes: WhatsApp stopped charging that same amount for the app and switched to a subscription-based model. The subscription fees were however not enforced on WhatsApp’s entire user base. What are deemed as developing markets were largely exempted to this and users had recurring service renewals while their counterparts in developed markets continued paying for the service. That is changing.
WhatsApp has announced that going forward, it will be dropping the annual subscription fee. WhatsApp is now free for everyone.
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. Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number 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.
WhatsApp was, until this announcement, one of the few popular messenger applications that charged its users a subscription fee. Most of the other applications are free with in-app purchases to content like stickers and other add-ons.
Since WhatsApp’s founders had taken an admirable public stand on never subjecting their users to ads (something we all feared was bound to happen moreso after the Facebook buyout), what happens now that their only revenue stream is shuttered? WhatsApp has been exploring ways of connecting its 900-million strong user base with businesses and organizations that matter to them. Like banks and utility companies. This is where it plans to make its money from and continue supporting the service without asking for a subscription fee from its users.
WhatsApp has moved from being just another messenger to a force to reckon with. Recent updates that have introduced features like voice calling have raised a storm in various countries like the United Arab Emirates where the feature remains banned and recently in South Africa where mobile network operators are up in arms calling for its regulation.