That nominal $0.99 per year fee for WhatsApp is coming to an end, with a blog post from WhatsApp today announcing that over the next month, they will start eliminating those yearly fees for everyone using their messaging app.
In the blog post, the given reason was that many WhatsApp users don’t use credit or debit cards, making it tricky for them to continue using the app after the free first year. That’s probably true, but we’d imagine the other big reason is that Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for a staggering $19 billion. Although gleaning $0.99 per year from nearly 1 billion monthly active users is a considerable revenue stream in its own right, Facebook is probably more interested in maximizing the revenue potential of WhatsApp in other ways.
Other ways meaning ads, although that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be seeing ads sent to you over WhatsApp anytime soon. In the blog post, WhatsApp says they plan to avoid direct advertising, and will instead “test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.” That should mean no spam and no direct ads, with the revenue coming from those businesses that want to use WhatsApp to engage with customers. That’s still a form of advertising, but at the very least it sounds like it’s an opt-in system by default.