Messaging app WhatsApp is about to reach a major milestone: 1bn active users.
And it’ll come as the Facebook-owned app makes some changes to its business, including dropping its $1 annual subscription fee for users, and encouraging more companies and brands to start using the app.
“For many years, we’ve asked some people to pay a fee for using WhatsApp after their first year. As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well. Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year,” explained the company in a blog post.
WhatsApp will continue its no-ads policy, despite dropping the subscription fee. “Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight.”
Commmerce and customer service is the focus, then, but musicians and other entertainment brands are already exploring the landscape of messaging apps: not just WhatsApp, but Facebook Messenger, SnapChat, Kik, WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk and others.
It’s reasonable to expect that WhatsApp’s business shift may open up new opportunities for labels and streaming services.
That’s enhanced by comments made by WhatsApp boss Jan Koum in a new Wired profile of the company, in which he talks about photo and video-sharing on WhatsApp having “gone through the roof”.
For music, messaging apps are complementary to rather than replacements for social networks like Facebook and Twitter, but there is clearly plenty of potential to be explored in the former – especially those with the biggest reach.
“We’re about 10 million short [of 1bn active users],” said Koum.
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