Facebook decides to keep WhatsApp ad-free… for now

One of the worst things that can happen to a free-to-use—at least from a consumer’s point of view—is the insertion of ads. Think about YouTube, and ads got progressively more intrusive, and how they “created” ad-free (amongst other features) YouTube Premium, and it feels like Google solved a problem that it created—and with a profit to boot. 

WhatsApp has been expected to implement ads within the popular messaging app for some time, ever since Facebook acquired the company for US$22 billion almost 6 years ago in 2014. Both co-founders of WhatsApp, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, have already left Facebook over the perceived direction that Facebook is taking WhatsApp in, with fears that the company’s end-to-end encryption could be compromised in the future.

But it turns out that WhatsApp will stay ad-free, for now. The Wall Street Journal reports that the team at Facebook who was working on plans to sell ads within WhatsApp has been dissolved, and their work has already been removed from WhatsApp’s servers. 

While ads will inevitably find its way into WhatsApp, primarily the “Status” feature, it appears that we’ll be able to use the messaging app free of intrusive advertisements for now. Facebook will instead be focusing on business-centric features on the WhatsApp platform for now, which is in line with stuff that we’ve seen from the social media giants over the past year or so.

We’ve seen the roll out of WhatsApp Catalogs, while Facebook is also trialing Facebook Pay in the U.S., with plans to push the payment feature globally—and crucially, across WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger as well. 

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Meanwhile, we’ve also seen Facebook face its fair share of criticism over privacy concerns with regards to WhatsApp. Telegram founder, Pavel Durov, accused the company (Facebook) of being part of “surveillance programs”, and advised users to delete WhatsApp from their phones to avoid their photos and messages becoming public.

Regardless of the above, I do expect to see ads appear on WhatsApp at some point in the future, be it in the Status section of the app, or even in conversations. There are already ads within Facebook’s standalone Messenger app, and I’m sure that Facebook is planning to do something similar with WhatsApp—why else spend US$22 billion?


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