In 2016, WhatsApp announced that it would stop charging users subscription fees for using the service. This was soon after the platform was acquired by Facebook. “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 company said in a blog post, “The answer is no.” Instead, WhatsApp said, they would start working with businesses to deliver their messages to users.

Two years of testing later, that service is now finally starting to collect money via a Business API, WhatsApp announced on a blog post Wednesday. Businesses will now be required to pay to send certain types of messages to users, like they are over SMS. Organizations will now be able to respond to customers on WhatsApp, and send them messages when they click on a link online requesting to be contacted. Responses to messages in the first 24 hours will not be charged, but after that, a fee will be levied.

Cost and benefit

As a developer pointed out, the cost for a business to send WhatsApp messages to India through third parties is far higher than the cost of sending bulk SMSes. Chaitanya C, chief of innovation at the cloud communications company Ozonetel, pointed out that working directly with WhatsApp would be cheaper than hooking into WhatsApp’s Business API. Ozonetel is one of the first companies, along with Twilio and Smooch, to hook into the API for its clients, by integrating its Contact Center product with WhatsApp. In India, companies like BookMyShow, GoIbibo, MakeMyTrip, and Netflix have worked with WhatsApp to send transaction- and booking-related messages to consumers. With WhatsApp’s Business API, the platform will be charging on a per-message basis:

Ads on WhatsApp Status

WhatsApp’s Snapchat-esque Status feature will also be leveraged to deliver ads, Facebook told TechCrunch. “We will move slowly and carefully and provide more details before we place any Ads in Status,” a WhatsApp spokesperson said, adding that the company aims to roll the feature out in 2019. In addition to this, Facebook will also be integrating more closely with WhatsApp, adding a click-to-open-WhatsApp button on businesses’ pages for customers to immediately start chatting with them on the platform.

ReadWhatsApp asked to set up office in India before launch of payments service; drops ‘beta’ tag