Facebook is taking away the subscription option within WhatsApp, according to a report from Re/Code.
The change is effective immediately in all markets and any current subscription will be cancelled. However, it may take a few weeks to remove all traces of the billing option from its apps.
Speaking at the DLD Conference in Munich, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum announced the change. In a blog post, the company said it was not replacing the subscription with adverts, but would instead be looking at ways for WhatsApp to let users “communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from.”
WhatsApp gives some examples of how this would work, including communicating with a bank about whether a transaction was fraudulent or with an airline about a delayed flight. It’s worth noting that Facebook is testing similar features in Messenger.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told analysts and investors during the company’s Q2 2015 earnings call that WhatsApp and Messenger are pursuing a similar strategy of trial and error that Facebook embraced during 2006 and 2007.
“What we decided was that over the long term, the ads and monetisation would perform better if there was an organic interaction between people using the product and businesses,” Zuckerberg said. “So instead of focusing on ads first, what we did was we built pages, and we made that free, that way as many businesses as possible could get into the network.”
Facebook bought WhatsApp, which had just 55 employees, for around $19 billion (£13 billion) last year. The company was focusing on building a good product, rather than monetising it. According to TechCrunch, WhatsApp lost over $250 million (£174 million) on revenues of $15 million (£10 million) during the first half of 2014.
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