WhatsApp has been providing its service free to all its users worldwide ever since launch. The IM app does not make money through ads like Instagram and Facebook either, so naturally, it is looking for alternate and innovative ways to monetise its extremely popular service soon. To do that, WhatsApp has reportedly appointed Facebook executive Matt Idema as their new COO.
According to a Recode report, Idema was announced as the newly appointed COO on Tuesday, and "monetisation will be his key focus." However, his full role is reportedly still being ironed out. Idema was Vice President of Product Marketing at Facebook, his LinkedIn profile still notes, responsible for "product strategy and global go-to-market for all of Facebook's Advertising and Business Products." The report adds that Idema will begin his new role at WhatsApp in the coming weeks and will report directly to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum.
WhatsApp waived off its nominal annual subscription fee last January, and wrote on its blog that it will look at alternate methods to monetise. "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. We all get these messages elsewhere today - through text messages and phone calls - so we want to test new tools to make this easier to do on WhatsApp, while still giving you an experience without third-party ads and spam," Koum wrote in the post.
Inside WhatsApp's code, many references to structured messages for business and 'enterprise' have also been found, the most notable one being the translation of these messages to the user's local language. What this means is that WhatsApp Enterprise could launch soon, which means businesses could use this feature to send messages to their targeted audiences directly through WhatsApp. These messages could arrive via push notifications, and presumably, could be disabled if the user so prefers. Of course in the absence of any official announcement, this is all speculation at this point.
However, Idema's appointment could mean that he would oversee the development of the rumoured WhatsApp Enterprise, and scale up the team if the need be. Currently, WhatsApp has around 200 employees, and caters to over 1 billion users globally. With these monetisation measures, WhatsApp looks to finally become a revenue-making vertical, as it hasn't been making any money since its inception in 2014.
However, the biggest USP of the app is its ad-free and spam-free nature, and WhatsApp will have to really be innovative to not break that USP and still figure out ways to make money. There'll be more clarity on how WhatsApp plans to monetise once it starts testing tools in beta.