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Whatsapp Will Become Free, Companies Can Pay To Reach Users (nytimes.com) 92

speedplane writes: The popular messaging service Whatsapp will soon become free (they previously charged $0.99 per year after the first). The troubling news is that to compensate for the lost revenue, companies will now be able to pay to contact users directly. "[Whatsapp founder] Mr. Koum said that his team was still experimenting with how such services could work, and that many companies were already using the messaging service, particularly in developing countries, to connect with mobile-savvy customers." If this smells like advertising, Whatsapp vehemently disagrees. A portion of their statement reads: "...people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today's announcement means we're introducing third-party ads. The answer is no."
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Whatsapp Will Become Free, Companies Can Pay To Reach Users

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  • Telegram (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ickleberry ( 864871 ) <web@pineapple.vg> on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:44PM (#51325501) Homepage
    "Companies can pay to reach users" - well that's going to send a lot of users reaching for Telegram and other apps. Do these big corporate f*cks never learn, it's all fun and games when the company is young and full of hipsters giving away this hip new product for free but when the corporate magnates come in and try to milk their userbase for what it's worth it's usually game over.
    • Re:Telegram (Score:5, Informative)

      by WiPEOUT ( 20036 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:06PM (#51325645)

      If you're going to suggest an app, Signal is the one. For one, it's open source. Second, it's backed by the EFF and a number of luminaries not the least of whom is Edward Snowden.

      https://ssd.eff.org/en/module/... [eff.org]

      • a number of luminaries not the least of whom is Edward Snowden

        I understand that one's hero is another one's traitor, and that's fine by me.

        But to call Snowden "a luminary" takes a special kind of stupid...

      • by mlts ( 1038732 )

        The EFF is one party which gets my respect. Signal looks interesting. It reminds me of the old standby app on Android, called TextSecure, which not just was a decent app for texting, but stashed the messages somewhere encrypted, as a secondary layer of protection. I wish the iOS version had a PIN or the ability to use the fingerprint scanner, just for additional security for messages on the app.

        Personally, my ideal app would be one that piggybacks of of existing protocols, but uses OpenPGP for its endpoi

        • Re:Telegram (Score:4, Informative)

          by UnsignedInt32 ( 1118617 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:53PM (#51325967)

          Signal looks interesting. It reminds me of the old standby app on Android, called TextSecure, which not just was a decent app for texting, but stashed the messages somewhere encrypted, as a secondary layer of protection.

          Naturally, because Signal is the successor of TextSecure. They have merged functionalities of TextSecure and RedPhone into one, and that's Signal, to make it consistent with their iOS offering.

        • OpenPGP is a known, secure quantity with decades of debugging behind it

          Weren't some law enforcement groups bragging about their ability to read PGP messages? Like last week?

      • Re:Telegram (Score:5, Insightful)

        by hackertourist ( 2202674 ) <hackertourist.xmsnet@nl> on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @04:24AM (#51327637)

        Signal shares one of Whatsapp's big drawbacks: it uses phone numbers as addresses, so it only works on devices that have a phone number assigned. There is a desktop version, but "Signal Desktop links with your Android device". I want a messaging service that works everywhere, not just on mobile phones. Looks like I'm sticking with email for a while longer.

      • If you're going to suggest an app, Signal is the one. For one, it's open source. Second, it's backed by the EFF and a number of luminaries not the least of whom is Edward Snowden.

        https://ssd.eff.org/en/module/... [eff.org]

        Which is excellent but what if you want to communicate with someone who doesn't have an iphone?

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      I would actually purport that isn't the case. Facebook, for example. It is used instead of E-mail, NNTP, news websites, discussion forums, chat sites, meeting scheduling, appointments, and many other items. People are too interconnected with it to leave it. In fact, not having a FB ID can be a negative in general, just because FB is used for so much.

      People won't be leaving FB like they bailed MySpace. There is just too much tying them to that social network. Heck, there are a number of websites use FB

    • Re:Telegram (Score:5, Interesting)

      by NotInHere ( 3654617 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:41PM (#51325883)

      There are a few startups which I think have succeeded in actually improving the situation compared to before. Take github for example. It bases on an open standard (git), and its reachable with a web browser. Together with the fact that it doesn't really require any data from you when setting up an account, unlike facebook or google, and that its ad-free, its in fact a real improvement over sourceforge.net (sorry dice) with svn. Yes, part of the improvement is linus' fault (git), but still github has done alot in order to improve and simplify user experience, compared to sf.net. That combined with the different business model gives a better product for open source software, and a great product for closed source software as well (where sf.net has no offerings afaik).

      Stackoverflow is similar. Its greatest achievement is in my eyes to replace phpbb and its friends with forum software that puts the best and working answer into the foreground, eliminating spam that would (like the "me too or thanks" stuff) make it harder to find the answer. Yes, many people see it as the temple of cargo cult programming, and the community is great but still large parts of it seem to like boost, but it is a real actual help with common problems with software, and many smart people like Mark Adler answer questions there, their answers being smart as well. Its basically a community maintained FAQ page.

      But whatsapp is an example of worsening the situation. It replaces an open (SMS/xmpp/e-mail) protocol by something proprietary. Also, its actively tried to stop the spread of alternative implementations, that connect to their service. If a company maintains such a close control of their product, it can abuse it in the future much easier, because the open environment around it has a much harder time spawning a fork.

      Both stackoverflow and github have found ways how to make money without fucking their users, and controlling their product tightly, and they live great from the money. And the cool thing is that they already serve as source of inspiration for people who make similarly great products (take travis CI for example), and stackoverflow is actively trying to get out of the "developer" niche, I hope they will be successful and become a reference in non-technical fields as well.

    • It could be ads.

      But it could also become a service provider.
      A lot of companies are trying to connect with users for legitimate purposes. There's a lot of money to made and saved.

      As the article points out, companies could pay a fee to Whatsapp to use the chat feature. Instead of paying to use SMS.

      It saves the companies a lot of money rather than trying to build out their own infrastructure and have customers download custom applications.

      If they could make it 'secure' there is even more money to be made. I kn

      • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

        why would they need to.

        fyi 80% of small businesses in some countries in asia are reachable by LINE, similar to whatsapp. point is, why would the company need to pay anyways.

      • A lot of companies are trying to connect with users for legitimate purposes. There's a lot of money to made and saved.

        Quite right. That would be "Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, garnished with truffle pâté, brandy and a fried egg on top, and Spam."

    • Why would you install yet another chat system?
      There is Jabber/XMPP, yet it stopped being supported by Google and Facebook. Now people are using the proprietary Google and Facebook apps instead.
      You use the software that connects you to people. Everyone's on Facebook. It won.

    • Do these big corporate f*cks never learn, it's all fun and games when the company is young and full of hipsters giving away this hip new product for free but when the corporate magnates come in and try to milk their userbase for what it's worth it's usually game over.

      You seem to be missing the point: by this time, the founders have cashed out massive amounts of money from their overly inflated stock and the fact that they never had a viable business model in the first place is irrelevant. The idea and the

  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:45PM (#51325509) Journal

    It's a content delivery option for those who wish to support What's App by leveraging their assets to ensure reliable delivery to the subset of mobile-savvy users which may provide reciprocal interaction to the content initiator.

    If you're interested, you can contact them to discuss the operational synergies available and plan a one-time or ongoing messaging strategy.

  • first (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I am the first person to respond to this thread. thought that would never happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Its not adverts, it Spam

    There's a world of difference.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Or rather, I'll just not use the app.

  • by Rosco P. Coltrane ( 209368 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:51PM (#51325579)

    ...the company offered paid users who don't want their personal details exploited in a way that they didn't initially sign for the option of closing their accounts before the change of business plan. Otherwise, it's a crass bait-and-switch.

  • by IMightB ( 533307 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @06:59PM (#51325611) Journal

    Never ssaw this coming after the FaceBook Acquisition.

    Nobody expects the Facebook Acquisition

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:03PM (#51325633)

    Advertising is what you encounter as a byproduct of doing other things.

    Companies "reaching out to you" to send you messages directly has another name already - spam.

    BTW this practice is supposed to be against Apple's app terms of service, and they do block some apps based on this - but I've seen some apps (recently Regal Cinemas) sending blatant promotional advertising over push. Really annoying and the quickest way an app can find itself in the rubbish bin.

    • by mlts ( 1038732 )

      Android also had this problem. A few years ago, there was AirPush, which eventually forced Google into putting in a mechanism to disable apps from making notifications due to the spam.

      I just wonder how long it will be until the advertising bubble bursts, especially if the economy tanks and people are not spending money on gewgaws. Even with apps gathering "god mode" data, there is a limit on how much stuff that can be slurped down and sold. Especially with both malvertising becoming a constant issue , an

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @07:05PM (#51325637)

    I've heard about this US$0.99/year after the first year.

    I'm a WhatsApp user for several years now. I never paid anything for it, nor did it bug me for payment.

    Even if everyone would pay that $0.99 fee, I can't imagine the service to be financially viable. It's just too cheap. Also makes me wonder who paid WhatsApp's bills over the past years.

    • Also makes me wonder who paid WhatsApp's bills over the past years.

      The cofounders made some money ($650k total) from being an early part of Yahoo. Enough to self-fund.from 2k9 to 2k11. Then they got 7M from VC in 2k11, and as they spent that they got more (totally 57M in the end) from the VC group. At that point, they sold out to FB for 20B, and for the last 2 years FB has been deficit spending. It's all an investment in having a userbase to either flip to FB/Google/Other Marketing Company (initially) o

    • by xlsior ( 524145 )
      Also makes me wonder who paid WhatsApp's bills over the past years.

      Facebook -- they purchased WhatsApp for $19 Billion in 2014.
    • Their Google Play page says it has between 1 billion and 5 billion installations (do they publish to other planets too???), so even if this number was 10 times the real installation base, and a small part of them paid 0.99$, I would say it's very financially viable!
  • by Anonymous Coward

    I have no clue why, but I never spent money on Whatsapp, despite having been using it for several years. Every year there's a message saying that my subscription has been extended until February of next year. It beats as to why that happens.

    • by I4ko ( 695382 )
      Same for me. It has always been free. Used it for over 3 or 4 years and never had to pay a dime, and I don't even get those messages about extending.
  • First time I get spammed on WhatsApp, I'm deleting it. Fuck you, Zuck.

    -jcr

    • by Malc ( 1751 )

      There are already spammers on WhatsApp - I've had a couple of such messages in the past few months. Expect it to get worse.

  • Although, my idea for a business model was that you give people some fixed amount of user-messages per month.

    Say 10,000 ... so if you have 10 followers, you can send 1k messages/month for free ... if you have 1k followers, you can send 10 messages per month for free.

    If you're someone who has lots of followers (eg, a company), if you send lots of messages per month, then you pay for it.

    Obviously, they'd have to play around with the numbers to figure out what works well. Maybe you always get one free message

  • by Z80a ( 971949 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @08:27PM (#51326139)

    Of "If you're not paying for a product, you are the product".

    • Well we found the guy who believes that a company can only have one business direction and that cash is the only viable payment option.

      I'm still trying to pin an age on you guys. You can't be at the get off my lawn age because if you were you'd remember a system called bartering which was exchanging non-monetary things of value.

  • For some time now one of my clients asks if I would be able to access whatsapp using a custom information system to pass government services alerts for general population (Example: I like to alert all whatsapp users on my list about a important goverment event related to them, generated on my system)
  • I can forsee that a lot of people would rather still pay the $.99 per year and not deal with this new 'business model.' Will that be an option?

    (who am I kidding?)

  • Why the hell are people using a "messaging app"? Don't most peoples' phones have messaging built in? Mine certainly does.
    • by xvan ( 2935999 ) on Monday January 18, 2016 @11:24PM (#51326929)
      1) SMS are still not free in lot's of the world, and obscenely expensive in comparison to the data fees.
      2) e-mail is SOooo 90's, lot's of people not even check it any more.
      3) Default messaging apps (Google’s and Apple's ) are still not interoperable, some people never generate / are aware of generating an ID for those.
      4) Facebook is not universal, not all facebook users use facebook on the phone, and there is people actively avoiding it for multiple reasons.
      5) Whatsapp is free , just works TM and filled the niche first.
      • I for one consider the fact that SMSs are not free a good thing rather than a bad thing. In other words, if someone sends me something, it has to be worth the few cents it costs him.

        I for one do not want to be connected ("on the line" for those that have seen The Internship) 24/7. I switch on my data/wifi only when I want to send something, do a little surfing, check e-mail, waste time on /. I can not stand constant attention-grabbing interruptions, it kills my productivity dead.

        So whenever someone asks

    • by feufeu ( 1109929 )

      xvan beat me to this.

      I suggest you have a look at Threema ( https://threema.ch/en [threema.ch] ). It's a paid alternative. It's encrypted.

      • by I4ko ( 695382 )
        I prefer (wechat) you insensitive clod. It is much better than mugcatalog and whatapp and viber and all the ilk. And ./ does not support Chinese characters in 2015
    • by xlsior ( 524145 ) on Tuesday January 19, 2016 @12:18AM (#51327107) Homepage
      Why the hell are people using a "messaging app"? Don't most peoples' phones have messaging built in? Mine certainly does.

      WhatsApp started offering free messaging at a time when most mobile companies around the world would still charge for each and every SMS sent (and received). They were in the right place at the right time in the early days of the smartphone, and where able to get a critical mass of users to the point that in many countries they ARE the default text messaging platform.

      Keep in mind that some carriers would still charge for international text messages, even if they would be free within your own country -- WhatsApp never charged for those either.

      In the US free text messages is/was much more common and they never captured a huge portion of the messaging market there, but on a global scale they currently have about a billion active users a month, which is not that far behind the marketshare of Facebook itself.
    • SMS doesn't have features like status, message read confirmation etc, plus Messaging Apps use data which is mostly free (if you find some free wi-fi - quite common), whereas SMS uses the cellular network and is expensive is a lot of places (not ideal for teens and young/poor people).
      • by Malc ( 1751 )

        SMS does have delivery notification support, but it seems to be enabled erratically by providers. Read receipts are annoying, and does anybody actively update their status? Another irritating thing with WhatsApp is that I can't even hit send on a message when I'm offline (e.g. underground on the Tube or overseas with data roaming off).

        My biggest problem with the default messaging app on my phone (iMessage) is that 1) it's Apple only, and 2) I apparently can't control when it falls back to SMS if the recip

        • Read receipts are annoying,

          WhatsApp puts a small tick on the message to show it's been delivered, and another different coloured tick if the user has opened it. How is this annoying? What's annoying is when you SMS someone and you have no idea if they've even received it...

          and does anybody actively update their status?

          You don't have to touch it. A lot of apps merely signal whether you are actively using the app at the time, or the last time you were online. No effort required.

          Another irritating thing with WhatsApp is that I can't even hit send on a message when I'm offline (e.g. underground on the Tube or overseas with data roaming off).

          Well if you could hit send on *any* messaging app or SMS, without service the result is the same.

          My biggest problem with the default messaging app on my phone (iMessage) is that 1) it's Apple only, and 2) I apparently can't control when it falls back to SMS if the recipient is offline.

          I gave

          • by Malc ( 1751 )

            Another irritating thing with WhatsApp is that I can't even hit send on a message when I'm offline (e.g. underground on the Tube or overseas with data roaming off).

            Well if you could hit send on *any* messaging app or SMS, without service the result is the same.

            No it's not. If I hit send on an email when I'm offline, I don't have to think about it again because the phone will send it as soon as it's back online. With WhatsApp I have to remember to go back to the app and hit send when I realise I'm back on

            • That's because WhatsApp is an instant messaging service, and email isn't (even if people try and pretend it is). It defeats the purpose of instant messaging if you don't want your message to be instant.
              But this isn't the point. the question was why use any other type of messaging app when you have SMS. As you have demonstrated, other apps (like email) have other features that SMS doesn't have.
              • by Malc ( 1751 )

                The only two benefits of WhatsApp are that it's free for overseas communications and that it is cross platform, although even then its desktop support is shit. The rest of the time I just find it irritating. In fact WeChat works better, but then the only people I know who use that live in Shanghai.

                Funny I landed in Moscow a couple of weeks ago and watched the lady in front of me obsessively go through at least half a dozen apps as soon as we landed. Fragmentation of communication methods is annoying, an

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