WhatsApp may have found a way to actually make money

9 Mar 2017

WhatsApp logos. Image: Ink Drop/Shutterstock

With more than 1bn users, WhatsApp is one of the largest messaging apps, but it has so far generated zero revenue.

Facebook realised the potential for WhatsApp when it bought the messaging app back in 2014 for $19bn but, since then, it has ditched the previous – and little enforced – plan to charge users €0.99 per year.

Therefore, with no advertising, the app has been generating no revenue – but this could be about to change.

According to Reuters, WhatsApp has begun testing a new system that would follow the model used by Facebook Messenger by allowing companies to chat directly through the app to customers.

So far, the early build of the system is being tested with a number of Y Combinator start-ups and, if successful, could be rolled out to any company looking to gain access to the app.

This would allow WhatsApp to potentially charge businesses to sign up to the service. It is already trying to find a balance that would prevent a company from spamming a customer with notifications that they don’t want.

Great access in the developing world

Some of the examples that WhatsApp has given include a bank customer being able to query a transaction, or an airline warning a customer that their flight is delayed or cancelled.

One of the start-ups reportedly working with WhatsApp is Cowlar, which develops smart, internet of things cow collars to keep track of the animal’s activity.

The company would hope to use a WhatsApp business notification platform to allow it to send alerts to the dairy farmer.

Speaking to Reuters, Cowlar’s founder, Umer Ilyas, said: “It represents a huge opportunity, because in all the big dairy markets – India, Brazil, Pakistan – a lot of farmers have access to WhatsApp.”

WhatsApp has been rolling out some major changes of late to bring it in line with its competitors, including a Snapchat-like Status feature and improved security with two-step verification.

WhatsApp logos. Image: Ink Drop/Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic