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Facebook Is Making Its First Serious Move To Monetise WhatsApp

Theresa Casimir
epa04090102 The two logos of Facebook (L) and Whatsapp pictured on the screen of a smartphone in Sieversdorf, Germany, 19 February 2014. Facebook announced on 19 February that it acquired the globally popular messaging system WhatsApp for 19 billion US dollar. Facebook paid 12 billion US dollar in shares and four billion US dollar in cash. The deal includes an additional three billion US dollar in Facebook stock for WhatsApp founders and employees. The deal should close later in 2014 and is still subject to regulatory approval, according to Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, who said in the conference call that he did not expect any issues. Additionally, WhatsApp co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Jan Koum will join the Facebook Board of Directors. EPA/PATRICK PLEUL

Late last year, Facebook launched WhatsApp Business, an Android app for businesses to engage with their customers. But now, the messaging service is expanding its tools to provide new ways for business users to provide support or share updates with their clients.

As announced today, the companies can use the WhatsApp chat feature for free, as long as they respond to a customer’s message within 24 hours. Otherwise, the company has to pay a fee to WhatsApp. It charges a fixed rate per country, ranging from about 0.5 cent to 9 cents per message, according to a WhatsApp spokesperson in a blog post.

The new feature comes in new ways for customers to interact with businesses have now been rolled out. They include a shortcut button to immediately launch a chat, the ability for businesses to send importation information such as a boarding pass, and provide real-time support on WhatsApp. It will now be displaying ads of businesses that link out to WhatsApp. This means that businesses will now be able to buy ads which direct people to an already loaded chat with the business on WhatsApp and they can start communicating with the customer from there. Businesses will be able to respond to customers for free if they answer within 24 hours. They will be charged for responses after 24 hours.

Messages sent to and from businesses will still use end-to-end encryption, so your communications will be secure. Additionally, to help prevent users from receiving floods of messages, WhatsApp is making it so that companies have to pay for certain kinds of messages sent to their clients, forcing them to be more selective. Naturally, customers can also simply block them as they would any other contact, should they become too intrusive—it will work directly with businesses to keep bringing more of them to the platform over time.
This won’t apply to small businesses as they will be able to reply to customers one-by-one for free. Large businesses will now be charged a fixed rate by country per message sent after the first 24 hours. This will be managed through the WhatsApp Business API that has been launched today.

The feature has been in test since last year, and now this is the first real attempt that Facebook has made to make money off of WhatsApp. The average user will be happy to see that the attempt doesn’t impact their user experience in any way.

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