WhatsApp, the social messaging platform acquired by Facebook for record $21 billion in 2014, has been struggling to make money. It initially intended to charge users an annual fee for the service but dropped it later. It then brought businesses to the platform as a form of monetization but its latest move could be the most offensive yet.
The social messaging platform could soon get targeted advertisements similar to main platforms like Facebook. The ads are said to arrive first in the Status tab of its messaging service. Obviously, the news has not gone down well with a lot of users. There are already reports of WhatsApp users switching to rival ad-free messaging services to get away from targeted advertisements.
Will you continue to use WhatsApp after the activation of the Status Ads feature?
Ads will appear between status updates, like Instagram. NEVER in chats.
— WABetaInfo (@WABetaInfo) November 26, 2018
WhatsApp has been adding new features at a rapid pace for the past few months and every time, it gained a new feature, users welcomed it with an overwhelmingly positive response. But, these very users are not planning to stay content with ads, especially those shown in between the status updates.
WABetaInfo, which tracks the social messaging application extensively, ran a poll on Twitter, asking its followers whether they will continue to use the app even after the activation of the Status Ads feature. The response did come as a surprise with 60 percent of voters saying they will stick with the app and that such ads are not invasive.
However, some of the key executives at WhatsApp, who have now left, would beg to differ. Jan Koum, one of the co-founders of WhatsApp, left early this year and media reports claimed that his exit had to do with Facebook’s plan to introduce ads on the platform. There are even reports of Koum being concerned that ads will weaken the end-to-end encryption supported by WhatsApp.
Brian Acton, the co-founder of WhatsApp, was the first to leave the company and has said that he had difference of opinion with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The exit of Acton and Koum was followed by Neeraj Arora, the business guy at WhatsApp. Arora, an IIT grad joined WhatsApp and is believed to be the pillar of Facebook deal in 2014.
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Apart from ads, WhatsApp is also lost in other controversies, including that of misinformation being spread on the platform. This has led to multiple mob lynchings in India and other parts of the world. Facebook’s own problems are far from over, leaving the messaging service in a vulnerable spot.
It would be too early to dismiss WhatsApp, a service with over 1.5 billion active users. It also has a lot of prominence in markets like India, where it is the go to messaging app for over 250 million people. But, introduction of ads in status similar to Instagram Stories, could be a huge risk.