By Prarthana Mitra
Messaging service giant WhatsApp on Wednesday announced that the app’s Status feature will soon be used to serve targeted advertisements to its users all over the world.
Parent company Facebook has long since expressed the wish to monetise the world’s most popular messaging app which it acquired in 2014. WhatsApp Vice President Chris Daniels Daniels put these speculations to rest during his maiden visit to India this week.
His purpose of visit, however, is to enforce a plan of action for spreading awareness among Indian users to curb the spread of fake news and misinformation through social networking apps. This arrives in the wake of growing pressure from the government after a spate of mob lynchings, supposedly triggered by incendiary doctored information disseminated over Whatsapp, resulted in 30 deaths since April.
About monetising the app, Daniels told IANS, “We are going to be putting ads in Status,” at a media briefing in New Delhi. “That is going to be primary monetisation mode for the company as well as an opportunity for businesses to reach people on WhatsApp,” he explained without offering a specific date for when we can expect this new update.
About the feature
The WhatsApp Status feature itself was fashioned last year to compete with Facebook-owned Instagram Stories and the original Snapchat Stories which allow users to upload images, text, videos, and GIFs that auto-delete in 24 hours. Instagram also began incorporating sponsored content in its Stories feed, a model that WhatsApp is likely to emulate. The plan to monetise WhatsApp was first reported by the Wall Street Journal which quoted a source confirming the advent of advertisements on the platform.
Cause for alarm
Recently, Brian Acton, one of the co-founders of WhatsApp, quit the firm earlier this year, alleging later that Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg always wanted to make money from the app, which in turn can undermine the end-to-end encryption on WhatsApp. “Targeted advertising is what makes me unhappy,” Acton had said in an interview to Forbes. The encryption feature is what makes it impossible for WhatsApp or any third-party to store and harvest the private chats conducted over WhatsApp. The same cannot be said for Facebook’s messenger, which found itself in deep waters for maintaining detailed records of conversations between its users.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.