End of an era: WhatsApp starts with advertisements

WhatsApp will start placing advertisements next year. The commercials are launched in the status display of the app and must become the primary revenue model of the app. That’s what CEO Chris Daniels announced yesterday. The popular chat service has been ad-free since its inception in 2009.

It was a spearhead for WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton: the chat service is always ad-free. But parent company Facebook thinks otherwise about it. Now that both founders are no longer involved in the chat service, Facebook rolls out the first advertising opportunities for entrepreneurs.

The ads come in the status view of the app. In this view, users can share a photo, video or gif that can be viewed by all their contacts. “Many people will not notice much at first. The status display is not very popular among users”, explains Arnoud Wokke of tech website Tweakers. Exactly how many people use it, WhatsApp never wanted to make known. “But for advertisers it is definitely worth it. Even if only 1 percent of users look at a status once, you’ve already reached fifteen million people.”

Whether the ads will appear in other parts of the app later, according to Tweakers is not known. CEO Daniëls did not make any statements about that. Chats remain as yet advert-free. “That will also remain so. It is technically very difficult to place advertisements in chats since they are encrypted. You cannot simply place an advertisement in between,” says Wokke. But that does not apply to the chat overview. “The company can place advertisements with that. It is a possibility that this expansion will come in the future.”

WhatsApp is the most popular chat service in the Benelux and has more than 1.5 billion users worldwide. How many of them also use the status display of the app is not known.

©REUTERS-WhatsApp founder Brian Acton is fierce against advertisements on the chat service.

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