WhatsApp hits 1.5 billion monthly users. $19B? Not so bad.

Facebook’s $ 19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp voices smarter and smarter. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on the Q4 2017 earnings call today that WhatsApp now has 1.5 billion users and considers 60 billion messages sent per day. That’s compared to 1.3 billion monthly users and 1 billion daily active users in July.

The massive growth builds Facebook’s choice to pay more than $ 19 billion to acquire WhatsApp look prescient. At the time in 2014, WhatsApp had just 450 million monthly active users and 315 million daily active users.

In a slight to Snapchat, Zuckerberg also noted that Instagram and WhatsApp are the No. 1 and No. 2 most popular Story-sharing products, referring to those apps’ clones of Snapchat Stories. Each now each has 300 million daily active users, compared to 178 million on Snapchat as a whole. He also mentions that Facebook’s research been shown that across apps, total social media posting to Stories will soon outstrip that of feed posting.

People thought Facebook was crazy to pay such a high cost. But messaging is the most critical and time-consuming activity on mobile. And if Facebook didn’t buy WhatsApp, Google probably would have, and messaging would be a two-horse race. Instead, Facebook is massively dominant everywhere but China, between the 1.3 billion-user Messenger and 1.5 billion-user WhatsApp.

Now Facebook is ultimately getting serious about monetizing WhatsApp with the recent launch of the WhatsApp for Business app. Facebook plans to charge business owners for additional commerce, customer service or broadcasting tools. And with such a massive audience, merchants will be clamoring for them.

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WhatsApp has launched person-to-person payments into beta in India

WhatsApp has begun testing a new pays feature in India that will allow people to send money to other WhatsApp users, omitting merchant accounts. The feature is now at beta, according to sources familiar with the company’s schemes, but hasn’t been publicly announced because it’s not widely available at this time.

The company has been working on is supportive of a payments feature for some time, which would take advantage of UPI( Unified Payments Interface) and include support by a number of Indian banks, including State Bank of India, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, and Axis Bank.

Beta testers have now found that this functionality is live, with a large list of supported banks displayed in the WhatsApp user interface.

Image credit: iPhoneHacks

According to screenshots posted to Twitter and elsewhere, including this post from the blog iPhoneHacks, those who have gained access to the new functionality “il be seeing” a payments feature appear in their WhatsApp Settings menu.

Users must then configure the feature by first verifying their telephone number via SMS and choosing a bank. The option to send a payment is then can be found at the main WhatsApp interface, in the same region where you can also share a photo, video, file, contact or place into your chat session.

The Facebook-owned company had received approval from the Indian government to integrate UPI into its messaging service last July in order to implement pays, according to The Economic Times.

The addition puts WhatsApp into rivalry with other messaging services that already support payments, including the recently launched Tez from Google and Tencent-backed Hike , for example, as well as digital wallet platform Paytm, which expanded into messaging in order to take on WhatsApp more directly.

However, WhatsApp’s support for pays is highly foreseen because of the app’s huge popularity among Indian users. India is WhatsApp’s largest marketplace with over 200 million users active daily users. In fact, it’s so heavily used in that country that it’s even led to issues as Indian grapple with the social norms involving daily messaging ranging from phones’ storage filling up with “good morning” messages, to drama over exiting family group chats .

The potential for WhatsApp to predominate Indian P2P pays is strong, bearing in mind the fact that millions of people have come online in the region thanks to lower-cost data schemes and cheap smartphones. The country even surpassed the U.S. for combined iOS and Android downloads for the first time in Q4 2017, according to App Annie, as smartphone adoption is surging.

We understand that WhatsApp will let users know when P2P pays becomes more widely available in India, after the best testing stage completes.

WhatsApp declined to comment on the launch.

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WhatsApp officially launches its app for businesses in select markets

WhatsApp today officially launched its new WhatsApp Business app in select marketplaces, including Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, the U.K. and the U.S ., ahead of its planned worldwide rollout. The addition of business profiles and new messaging tools aimed at business clients is part of the company’s broader plan to generate revenue by charging larger enterprises for advanced tools to communicate with customers on the platform now used by over a billion people worldwide.

The WhatsApp Business app is the initial entry phase in this market.

Aimed at smaller businesses, the free app- Android-only for now- help companies better connect with their customers and establish an official presence on WhatsApp’s service. Basically, it’s the WhatsApp version of a Facebook Page.

The company had previously announced the app’s arrival, and begun substantiating business accounts as part of its WhatsApp Business pilot program back in September 2017. Verified accounts were given a green checkmark as a means of demonstrating their authenticity.

With the new WhatsApp Business app arriving today, small companies can set up their WhatsApp Business profiles by filling out info like a business description, email, address and website.

WhatsApp says people will know when they’re talking to a business because these accounts will be listed as “Business Accounts.” Over time, some of these will become “Confirmed Accounts, ” after WhatsApp confirms the account phone number it registered with matches the business phone number.

Once established on the WhatsApp network, businesses can then utilize a series of tools provided by the app, like smart messaging tools that offer similar technology as what you’d find today in Facebook Messenger.

For example, the app offers “quick replies” that offer fast answers to customers’ frequently asked questions; “greeting messages” that introduce customers to the business; and “away messages, ” that let clients know you’re busy.

Businesses will also be able to access messaging statistics, like number of messages read, and they can send and receive messages from the desktop via WhatsApp Web.

While industries will need to use this new app to communicate with customers, for members of the general WhatsApp user, there’s no change. They’ll be able to message business but can control their experience by blocking numbers and business, as well as report spam.

In addition, businesses will only be able to contact people who their telephone number and agreed to receive messages from the business, the company had previously said.

The Business app will later be joined by an enterprise answer aimed at large businesses with a global client base- like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks, WhatsApp had said last fall. It didn’t announce any news regarding this solution today, but in the past the company said it would charge for these enterprise tools. Presumably, they’ll be built on top of the current WhatsApp Business core product.

Instagram tests letting users post Stories directly to WhatsApp

Last October, Facebook widened the usage( and flexibility) of Instagram Stories — the Snapchat-like feature that lets you patch together photographs and videos into a slide depict — by making it easy to directly post a Story to Facebook. Now Facebook is looking at how to bring WhatsApp into the fold.

TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that the company is now operating a test to let users post their Instagram Stories immediately to WhatsApp, as a WhatsApp Status, a corresponding Snapchat-like feature in the latter messaging app where decorated photos, videos and GIFs can be posted with encryption, disappearing after 24 hours. An Instagram Story posted as a WhatsApp Status also becomes encrypted like the rest of WhatsApp.

“We are always testing opportunities to improve the experience on Instagram and make it easier to share any moment with the people who matter to you, ” a spokesperson said.

From what we understand, the feature is currently being tested with a small number of users.

It’s based on publicly available code that WhatsApp makes available to integrate WhatsApp messaging with third-party apps on the web or on Android. Users get an option to tap to share to WhatsApp from the Instagram sharing screen, but they still have to press “send” in WhatsApp to post the story.

The reader who tipped us off on it is based in Brazil, where a local blog has also been reporting several sightings in the wild, one of which( on Android) is pictured here, with the Instagram Story on the left, and the WhatsApp Status cross-posted on the right( note the Instagram icon in the corner ).

( Coincidentally, the Instagram-Stories-posted-to-Facebook feature was originally tested in Portugal, another Portuguese-speaking country .)

There are a few reasons why Facebook may be interested in inducing Instagram Stories more shareable, and specifically on WhatsApp.

The first of these seems simple enough: it’s to give one more bit of functionality and therefore usage to Instagram Stories, which are already very popular and as of last June were outstripping usage of the Snapchat product the latter are designed to clone.

Facebook tells me that as of last November there were more than 300 million daily active users of Instagram Stories. Adding the ability to share to WhatsApp will give those Narratives even more ways of producing traffic, especially in countries where WhatsApp is already tremendously popular and outstripping usage of Facebook or its Messenger app.

The second reason could be to help spur more utilization of WhatsApp Status. This was ostensibly the reason of the reasons why Facebook enabled Instagram Story sharing to Facebook, whose own Stories feature I personally never see gets used that much and has been described by my colleague Josh as a ghost town. The same isn’t the case for Status, though, which Facebook tells me is seeing similar high levels of usage to Instagram Stories, also with more than 300 million DAUs as of November.

( The relative popularity of all these apps and features is also one drawback to the cross-posting feature: inevitably, there will be people who use them all, which might lead to people getting borne and annoyed at assuring the same content everywhere they look. Ideally Facebook is also working on a way of calibrating Stories, so that if you’ve already seen one in one app, like Instagram, the same exact thing won’t be popping up for you again in a Facebook Story and then a WhatsApp Status .)

The third( and maybe most interesting) reason for testing this feature is that Facebook has been steadily working on ways of not only extending the time spent in specific apps, but also how to better usher people from one Facebook-owned app to another, encouraging usage even when the apps are not open.

This has taken some different forms so far. Last May, the company started testing cross-app notifications between Facebook, Messenger and Instagram to alert people to when they had mentions or messages in any of them. Then last month, Facebook launched a click-to-WhatsApp messaging button in Facebook ads, monetizing WhatsApp but not on WhatsApp itself. And there have also various other “regramming” tests on iOS.

Encouraging Story posting between Instagram and WhatsApp Status is notable because it gives a bit more social media spin to WhatsApp, which Facebook acquired in 2014 for $19 billion with the explicit promise that it would stay independent of Facebook. As it happens, the new feature that’s being tested does bypass Facebook’s flagship apps completely.

Together, this could all help Facebook grow its overall engagement and traffic footprint. Conversely, it also could spell one more style to destabilize Snapchat and potentially any other app that has any lesser infrastructure to keep your content get considered by the people you know, whatever app they happen to be using.

We’ll update this post as we learn more.

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Click-to-WhatsApp messaging buttons are now rolling out in Facebook ads

WhatsApp has always said that it has no schemes to set ads into its own app, but this is not stopping Facebook, which now owns WhatsApp, from figuring out other ways of monetizing the hugely popular messaging service, which has around 1 billion daily users.

Today, Facebook is launching a new ad unit that will let business create a link between the two platforms: advertisers can now include a button on their ads so that people can call or message via WhatsApp with the click of a button.

We reported early sightings of the feature in test mode earlier this year. Now, Facebook has confirmed to us that it’s rolling this out gradually, starting first with North and South America, Africa, Australia and most of Asia.

You might notice that Europe is not included in the listing, and wonder if that might be attributed to news that Facebook last year had to pause efforts to share data between the two platforms when it was deemed to violate data protection laws.

From what we understand, the plan is to introduce Europe at a later date, but Facebook is going to first observe how the feature is used elsewhere, and is also still running through questions from outside the company about how WhatsApp and Facebook will work together.

( Those outside the company may well include customers, but also regulators .)

The new feature get announced today, more generally, follows on from some bigger developments for how WhatsApp is already being used by businesses.

Facebook tells us that more than 1 million Facebook Pages already include WhatsApp numbers in their posts each month, which implies that there is already a pipeline between the two companies being used by business more informally to connect with customers more directly.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard that in some developing markets, business are employing their WhatsApp and Facebook pages as their primary points of contact for users, so this would make some sense to expand for Facebook, as the new White and Yellow Pages, respectively.

“Many people already use WhatsApp to communicate with small businesses. It’s a fast, convenient route be left in touch, ” said Pancham Gajjar, product marketing director, Facebook, in a statement. “By adding a click-to-WhatsApp button to Facebook ads, businesses can now make it even easier for people to learn about their products, set up an appointment or use their service.”

The other trend to note here is that WhatsApp has been working on a style of creating more specific business accounts for some time now. Most lately, it’s posted some more information on its help pages about how business accounts will be verified, confirmed or unconfirmed — although it has yet to roll out any specific products or pricing tiers that speak to these three statuses.

The new button ad-unit is also similar to the click-to-Messenger ads that Facebook previously rolled out.

“That format was the first ad product to explicitly connect activity on Facebook with activity on Messenger, and it was followed by other ad formats on Messenger itself, ” said eMarketer principal analyst Debbie Williamson. “It seems that Facebook is following a similar strategy for WhatsApp, starting with click-to-WhatsApp ads on Facebook, and presumably eventually rolling out ads on WhatsApp itself.”( Which actually would be a way back from WhatsApp’s mission statement .)

For now, Facebook does not have plans to add the WhatsApp button integration to regular customer services, although you can see possibilities for putting the links in, say, Pages where users want to offer a contact address, or in the Marketplace next to items that are being sold, or even in task listings.

“We recently started testing different ways for a Facebook Page to point people to their WhatsApp presence from the Page itself, ” a spokesperson said, “but don’t have any more details to share on that right now.”

Updated with commentary from eMarketer .

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WhatsApp finally lets you recall messages youve sent by mistake

WhatsApp has finally got your back when you send a message to the incorrect person or group.

The Facebook-owned messaging app is rolling out specific features that will finally let its 1 billion-plus users delete a message for all people within a conversation.

Right now, the app’s delete feature is somewhat useless as it only removes a message for members of the public who sent it. That means that those the message wasn’t intended for can still read it. But this new update will give the option to “delete for everyone, ” which rids it from the chat for all. Instead, they will see a notification explaining the message has been removed.

The feature is still rolling out, so not everyone has it yet: I don’t, but at the least one of my TechCrunch colleagues does. More details can be found on the company’s FAQ page :

To delete messages for everyone

Deleting messages for everyone allows you to delete specific messages you have sent to either a group or an individual chat. This is particularly useful if you sent a message to the incorrect chats or if the message you sent contains a mistake.

Messages you successfully delete for everyone will be replaced with “This message was deleted” in your recipients’ chats (*). Similarly, if you insure “This message was deleted” in a chat, it means that the sender deleted their message for everyone.

You can only delete messages for everyone for up to seven minutes after sending. Once seven minutes have passed, there is no way to delete messages for everyone.

The sole caveat for that is that all dialogue participants must have the latest version of WhatsApp installed on their device. That’s a pretty major deal-breaker at this point but, as hour goes by and more people update their app, the option to undo those embarrassing mis-messages will apply to more and more conversations.

Most WhatsApp users will agree that this update is long overdue.

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WhatsApps first ads appear on Facebook and start convos with businesses

WhatsApp is preparing to finally monetize, and its first move follows the same strategy as Facebook Messenger. TechCrunch has discovered code in Facebook’s ad manager that lets industries buy ads with the call to action “Send WhatsApp Message.”

We reached out for remark and a WhatsApp spokesperson told TechCrunch “We’re testing a new style for people to start a chat with a business in WhatsApp from a Facebook ad. This constructs it easier for people to connect with businesses that they care about on WhatsApp.” They clarified that for now, WhatsApp isn’t selling ads on its own app, but testing a WhatsApp chat button on Facebook ads that immediately opens a dialogue with a business in WhatsApp.

The Next Web’s Matt Navarrainitially spotted the WhatsApp name in Facebook’s ad manager code, in such a way that didn’t describe how the ads run. Upon further investigation, TechCrunch procured this “Send WhatsApp Message” code.

This week WhatsApp announced its plan to eventually charge industries, stirring worries that businesses might be able to cold-message users with sponsored message ads. But WhatsApp tells TechCrunch that businesses will only be able to contact WhatsApp users that have agreed to be messaged by initiating the conversation. That’s the same style Facebook Messenger-sponsored messages work, where businesses can pay to reconnect with people they’re already chatting with.

So, a business could use the tested Facebook ads feature to get users to trigger conversations with their company, and then have the ability to contact them in the future, potentially through sponsored messages. For instance, an e-commerce business could buy Facebook ads that start a conversation with its style consulting service on WhatsApp, then later message that user with promotions for new clothing lines.

Facebook Messenger first monetized with “Click-To-Message” ads that appear on Facebook, and now WhatsApp is doing the same to help industries get people to start conversations with them

This was the first style Facebook Messenger began monetizing in 2015 though “Click-To-Message” ads that lived on Facebook proper. Messenger eventually began injecting showing ads into the inbox, which WhatsApp could the working day let, too. Alternatively, it could charge big enterprises like banks or airlines for special management of high volumes of messages or e-commerce and customer service transactions.

WhatsApp initially promised not to show ads when it was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014. Whether it will stick to that is unclear, considering display ads ended up in Messenger. But with this new exam, WhatsApp can start earning its keep and maintaining its promise by outsourcing its ad hosting to the Facebook News Feed .

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No business, no boozing, no casual sex: when Togo turned off the internet | Mawuna Koutonin

When young people started mobilising online against Togos president, the state switched off the internet. In the week that followed, people talked more, worked harder and had less sex all of which demonstrated bad news for the government

On 5 September, at about 10 am, the governmental forces of Togo cut off the internet. The scheme was to limit security threats from a growing number of young people around the country who were mobilising online and talking of toppling the government.

Faure
Togo’s chairwoman, Faure Gnassingbe, at the presidential palace in Lome following verification of his third word in office, in 2015. Photograph: Issouf Sanogo/ AFP/ Getty Images

Throughout August, opposition parties in Togo had been organising protests as frustration grew over the reluctance of the ruling Gnassingbe family to relinquish the power the government had held during 50 years.

With more protests planned for the beginning of September, Gnassingbe’s government- which his political opponents have long sought to oust- taken any steps. The internet was closed for business. Text messages were blocked and international bellows filtered.

Leaving aside politics, it was a unique opportunity to observe the effect of internet deprivation on a country. During the week-long shutdown, I talked to friends. I interviewed strangers. For many, especially the young, it was a first taste of how nation power could affect their personal life.

Initially, people were confused. Some tried restarting their phones or computers. Internet subscriptions were renewed and mobile data plans topped up. Telecom company employees were accused of the usual appropriation of credits, while engineers were branded incompetent.

After a few hours, though, the penny fell: we realised they have shut down the internet.

For many people in Togo, the internet is WhatsApp. People went online or bought a smartphone just for WhatsApp. In many encounters, I’d say,” They cut off the internet ,” and people would respond,” Yes, WhatsApp is not working .” So the local vocabulary had to be enriched with this new word,” the internet”, as radio and TV reports talked about the situation.

On that first evening, bars and restaurants were deserted. People were afraid. They talked of maintaining money in case things went wrong, in case the the banks closed or the government was unable to pay wages. Many among the upper middle class rushed to the bank to stockpile cash. But nothing was working during the course of its first hours, as the internet had been cut.

In all likelihood, sex activity also fell off. WhatsApp is the country’s biggest dating app and casual sex is cliche. Togo has high youth unemployment and the economic situation is harsh, but there is a culture of sexual freedom. Marriage is as rare as diamonds nowadays, while sexual vagabondage is well tolerated and well spread.

One friend said the internet shutdown had moved the dating marketplace upscale. With WhatsApp, penniless guys would send females virtual blooms and rings. Now, they had to find money to buy real ones. Men who previously sought to impress dames by copying and pasting cute quotes and images on social media now had to go out, bringing friends together in a bar, pay the bill and prove their real verbals and intellectual abilities.

Another surprising effect was that productivity rocketed. Togolese people, from civil servant to police officers, often need to be dragged away from WhatsApp; now, they could get on with the performance of their duties. Outside the workplace, without smartphones as a distraction, and with free time forcibly laid before them, people started talking to one another more; they walked in parks, enjoyed the outdoors.

A couple of days in, I was conducting a technological workshop. The attention level in the room was close to that within a Buddhist temple. At the end, an attendee came to me and said she had never felt so engaged during a seminar. She wondered whether it was because of my performance or because there was no internet to confuse her.

Anti-government
Anti-government protesters sit on a street in Lome as they maintain an all-night vigil to press for constitutional reform. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/ AFP/ Getty Images

Interest in reading surged. It was heartwarming to insure restless kids and adults espousing dusty volumes and magazines. Spontaneous dialogue with strangers surged; asking about the situation of women the internet became the equivalent of” Have you got a light ?”- a dialogue starter.

Social gatherings improved dramatically. Dialogues were lively, as they had been in the working day before social media. That old thing called household dinner lasted longer. Without interruptions, it felt as though people were more caring, more available to each other. Was this just nostalgia?

After a week, the government abruptly switched the internet back on. For thousands of businesses and professionals who depended on the web for work, it had been a highly stressful period. The shutdown had undermined their faith in the fragile digital transition. Companies that had moved their core business applications into the cloud could neither access their tools nor retrieve their data. Virtual business, it turned out, might not be suitable for dictatorship-prone countries . . We have yet to get a broad sense of the impact of unanswered urgent emails and lost opportunities.

Families who depend on remittances through Western Union or MoneyGram all suffered too; they could not get the codes to retrieve their money and the banks couldn’t serve them.

The government could have been smarter. The best style to divert our youth from politics would have been to give them free, unlimited internet access a few days before the protests, and fell the price of beer and condoms- all the while playing” Be safe, live long” anthems on the radios. The youngies would have been watching porn, WhatsApping and YouTubing, and would have been too confused to think about politics.

Shutting down the internet attained the opposite. Far from restriction youth mobilisation, it galvanised word of mouth and turned many neutrals against the regime. To young people for whom the internet had become so much part of the daily routine, the shutdown felt like an intrusion, a burglary of their personal life.

Previously preoccupied mostly by sexuality and alcohol during the long two months of the school vacation, our youth were bloated with testosterone and boosted by a huge surge in political consciousness. They started collecting, talking to each other, commenting on the moves and motives of political leaders. The shutdown brought more people into the political stream.

It was also a lightning rod for discontent among foreign business people living in Togo. They were suddenly denied their preferred channel of communication, attaining it impossible for them to reach out to families and friends back home. Naturally, most joined the chorus of opposition to a regime whose largesse they had previously enjoyed.

Anti-government
Anti-government protesters in Lome gather around a scrawled message saying:’ Faure should leave ‘. Photograph: Pius Utomi Ekpei/ AFP/ Getty Images

I now have an experience to boast about; I’m a member of an exclusive club of nations that shut down the internet without going back to the stone age. Tell me, how many people in the world have lived under a despot who could shut down the internet on a caprice? My country simply entered the Guinness World Records book as one of the top tyrannies. Any renown is better than no fame.

In the end, the shutdown was overwhelming stressful and negative. It was like living in a open prison: you could not reach out to your loved ones and they could not reach out to you, because someone had decided so, and was actively enforcing it against your will. Our lives have moved online to the point where an internet blackout is like a high security prison.

It’s not because one could have more time to read books when in prison that we should hail prisons.

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WhatsApp announces free Business app, will charge big enterprises

WhatsApp is gearing up to finally monetize its messaging app by charging big enterprise industries for tools to better communicate with customers. WhatsApp will also offer a free app to small-to-medium sized business, though it hasn’t outlined the specific functionality of the app. The enterprise answer will allow global companies “to provide customers with useful notifications like flight days, delivery confirmations, and other updates”.

“We do intend on charging business in the future, ” WhatsApp’s Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema told the Wall Street Journal. “We don’t have the details of monetization figured out.”

The company did write that it wants to facilitate “someone placing an order with a local bakery or looking at new styles from a apparel store” and “shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of clients from a single smartphone”, plus offer “an easier way is in response to messages.”

Perhaps WhatsApp could charge enterprises like “airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks” to have multiple representatives managing an account or sending high volumes of messages. It could also charge for artificial intelligence bot functionality or ecommerce transactions.

WhatsApp also officially announced its closed pilot program for substantiating business accounts with a green checkmark to distinguish them from personal accounts and fakes.

WhatsApp began testing verified accounts for businesses a week ago. Dialogues with business are encrypted and they can be blocked. Interestingly, if a business isn’t already in your phone number contacts, its name will appear as whatever they register themselves as instead of their number. This could allow WhatsApp to create a business search engine with optional sponsored outcomes, or let business cold-message people, possibly for a fee.

Alternatively, businesses on WhatsApp may need to be contacted by a user first before they can respond with organic or sponsored messages. That’s how Facebook Messenger works, and it’s led to businesses buying “tap-to-message” ads on Facebook’s News Feed to get people to initiate conversations so the business can follow up with sponsored messages. Not permitting cold-message ads meshes with WhatsApp writing that it plans to “make it easier for people to communicate with the businesses they want to reach on WhatsApp”, emphasis mine.

[ Update: WhatsApp now corroborates our hunch, telling TechCrunch “Businesses will only be able to contact people who have their phone number and agreed to be contacted by the business over WhatsApp.”

The company also says that the enterprise solution was originally be free but it does plan to charge businesses. Some functionality that will be offered by the Business app and enterprise solution includes the ability to create a substantiated profile with info like address, description, and hours, plus “Features for helping manage customer chats like away messages for when businesses are not able to respond at the moment.”]

Facebook Messenger inserts display ads into the inbox

When Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, the companies said they wouldn’t set ads in WhatsApp because it would degrade the experience. But it also ditched its$ 1 annual subscription fee, leaving few monetization options beyond charging businesses for tools. The introduction of display ads and sponsored messages to Facebook Messenger may indicate a relaxation of WhatsApp’s stance against ads.

With over 1.3 billion monthly users and 1 billion daily users, WhatsApp has reached the massive scale necessary for it to earn significant revenue even from light ad. Its Snapchat Stories clone WhatsApp Status now has 250 million daily users, and could host vertical video ads between friends’ content the style Instagram does. It could also insert display ads into the inbox like Facebook Messenger.

After being one of tech’s biggest startup acquisitions, WhatsApp has tripled in sizing under comparatively hands-off management by Facebook. Now it’s time to earn its keep.

Note: Article updated to include a link to the Wall Street Journal narrative

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WhatsApp to share user data with Facebook for ad targeting heres how to opt out

Facebook-owned messaging giant WhatsApp has announceda big change to its privacy policy which, once a useraccepts itsnew T& Cs, willsee it start to share some user data with its parent companyincluding for ad-targeting intents on the latter service.

[ B] y coordinating more with Facebook, well be allowed to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp, WhatsApp writes in a blog on the change today.

Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them. For instance, you might insure an ad from a company you already work with, rather than one from someone youve never heard of.

WhatsAppwill also be sharing the data with the Facebook family of companies so presumably its user datacould also be fed toVR firm Oculus Rift, another Fb acquisition, and photo-sharing networkInstagram.

WhatsApp data that will beshared for the purposes of the new T& Cs includes thephone number a user used to verify their account, and the last day theyused theservice.

Two pieces of data which on a creepinessscale of personal intelyoud instead not hand over to a data-mining tech giant are both right up there.

You can read the full WhatsApp privacy policy here.

There is an option to opt out of some of thedata sharing( specifically for ad and product intents) watch lower down this post for more details although most users will only tap I agree to WhatsAppsnew T& Cs without reading them andrealizing what they are agreeing to.

This is why, as weve said before, T& Cs suck. And why user consent to a massive privacy shifting like this shouldcertainlynot default opt people in.

Privacy vs data

This is undoubtedly a huge step-change for a service that has typically prided itself on championing user privacy, including completing a rollout ofend-to-end encryption across its entire service earlier this year, and continuing to fight requests from authorities to hand over user data.

But once WhatsApp agreed to be acquired by data-mining social network giant Facebook, back in February 2014, the penning was arguably on the wall for any pro-privacy stance.

Facebook is in the business of monetizing usage via interest-based ad fed by harvesting the personal data of its users. WhatsApps original business model, of charging users a small yearly subscription fee for an ad-free messaging service, was discontinued after Facebook took over ownership of the service.

The annual$ 1 fee was ditched in January this year, but WhatsApp still does not have a replacement business model dedicated its anti-ads stance, although itislaying the groundwork toopen up business accounts. And theintelit will be sharing with Facebook under itsnew T& Cs will likely be used to further its plans there.

At the time of the acquisition Facebook said itwould be keeping the messaging giant independent, despite some obvious overlap with its own Facebook Messenger app.

WhileWhatsApp founder Jan Koumclaimedthere would be no changes.Heres what will change for you, our users: nothing.WhatsApp will remain autonomous and operate independently, he wrote at the time, adding: There would have been no partnership between our two companies if we had to compromise on the core principles that will always define our company, our vision and our product.

Fast forward a couple of years andone core principle privacy is now being, if not entirely compromised, at the least loosened given that Facebook will now be able to link users of its own social service with WhatsApp users. It will also be able to track relative usage of its services vs activity on the messaging app, as WhatsApp feeds it engagement intel via the last used signal.

Its not clear from the WhatsApp blog post if other user data will be shared with Facebook. The wording suggests this is entirely possible, although if a user has updated to the latest version of the app, which end-to-end encrypts all content, then their messaging content at the least cannot be shared, so long as the person or persons they are messaging has furthermore updated.

WhatsApp also makes this point in its blog post , noting: When your messages are end-to-end encrypted, merely the people you are messaging with can read them not WhatsApp, Facebook, or anyone else.

But thats kind of missing the phase about letting Facebook triangulate users across two massive services, with over a billion active users apiece. It remains to be seen whether that collapsing of boundaries between two distinct services will catch the attention of data protection regulators in Europe, which has more stringentprivacy rules, and where Facebook has already faced multiple data protection related investigationsand legal action and continues to do so.

Weve asked WhatsApp for an exhaustive list of everything it intends to share with Facebook, and for a comprehensive list of everything Facebook intends to do with the data it will be receiving on WhatsApp users and their usage of the service and will update this post with any response.

As well as phone number and last seendata, TechCrunch understands Facebook will also be fed intel on a WhatApp users operating system, mobile country code, mobile carrier code, screen resolve and device identifier. All of which open up plentiful tracking/ ad-targeting possibilities.

But this looks very much like Facebook trying to fill in missing mobile phone number data via the more comprehensive WhatsApp address book given that the latter requires users to render a number to verify anaccount, whereas it is possible to use Facebook without supplying your mobile number( albeit, Facebook might well have grabbed your digitsvia your friends uploading their contacts books to the service anyway And the serviceperiodically nags those who havent to add amobile number ).

WhatsApp says the data is being shared to coordinate more and be enhanced experiences across our services and those of Facebook and the Facebook family going on to cite the following three particular examples 😛 TAGEND

We will be able to more accurately count unique users

We can better fight spam and abuse

If you are a Facebook user, you might consider better friend suggestions and more relevant ads on Facebook