Facebook has announced that it will scrap the subscription fees for WhatsApp as it looks to implement a more business-centric model similar to that used for Facebook Messenger.
The Facebook-owned messaging service previously charged an annual subscription fee of $0.99 after the first year of using the service, however concerns over losing customers has led to the decision to drop the charges.
Speaking at the Digital Life Design conference in Munich, WhatsApp co-founder, Jan Koum, said the charge “really doesn’t work that well in a lot of countries and we just don’t want people to think that their communications with the world will be cut off”.
He explained that the concerns of losing customers stemmed from the fact that many users don’t have a credit or debit card to allow them to pay. It is also likely that many users would simply choose not to pay, instead leaving the platform in favour of free messaging services such as Facebook Messenger.
To recover the lost revenue, WhatsApp will adopt a similar business model to that used by its owner’s standalone messaging service. Facebook Messenger already allows users to communicate directly with businesses and will soon include more features such as the ability to complete transactions and hail a ride through Uber.
Koum said WhatsApp was currently developing features which would allow companies, such as American Airlines and Bank of America, to communicate with customers at the request of the user. He stressed that this would be done in a way that would not constitute third-party advertisements or spam.
The announcement of the changes follows on from news that WhatsApp is testing the release of a video calling feature which would serve as a competitor to Microsoft’s Skype service.