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WhatsApp to drop annual subscription fees

WhatsApp

WhatsApp founder and CEO Jan Koum revealed that the messaging platform is planning to drop the annual subscription fees for the service, reports Re/Code. WhatsApp is initially free for the first year and charges an annual fee of Rs 53 for Indian users and about 99 cents globally.

The report added that WhatsApp will stop charging customers immediately but it will take some time to remove the payment infrastructure from the app. In September 2015, WhatsApp said that it has 900 million monthly active users with India as its largest market. In November 2014, the company said India accounted for 70 million of its active users, which was over a one-tenth of its global users back then.

WhatsApp also mentioned that it would not be running third-party ads on its platform on its blog. The company said that it will test new models for revenue that will allow users to communicate with businesses and organizations they want.

Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no. Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you wantto 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

WhatsApp as a publishing platform

MediaNama had pointed out that WhatsApp might work well as a media publishing platform. In January this year, WhatsApp claimed that its users were sending over 30 billion messages everyday. A year and half ago, 700 million photos and 100 million videos were being shared on Whatsapp on a daily basis, at a time when it had 500 million users globally. So, there is some sense to this.

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However, WhatsApp is a closed API and doesn’t allow automation of messages. This means that each update to a Whatsapp group has to be added manually, although there have been instances in the past where companies have found workarounds to interact with potential customers and automate information.

Another issue with WhatsApp is that the company will have to find a way to verify users like on Facebook and Twitter.

Blocking of Telegram links

Last month, WhatsApp started blocking any links to competitor Telegram, with the URLs now appearing as a normal message rather than a hyperlink. Users are also blocked from copy-pasting the text, effectively treating the URL as spam. A part of the code responsible for blocking was uploaded to pastebin after some reddit users further investigated the matter. The code essentially confirms the blocking is intentional, as WhatsApp lists Telegram under the ‘BAD_HOST’ class, looking for the specific string not preceded by a word separator and followed by any top level domain.

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