The WhatsApp messaging application said recently that it would start up allowing accounts for companies for the first time, a step that brings the free service closer to a plan that in the future will generate revenue for its parent, Facebook Inc.
Some companies already use the application with 1.3 billion users to respond to their customers’ demands. Business accounts will allow them to establish automatic greetings, view statistics about their messages and create a profile page with hours of operation and information, WhatsApp said.
The accounts are intended for companies that receive a large volume of WhatsApp messages and need help to keep up, said WhatsApp chief operating officer, Matt Idema. “What we saw was a need for companies to have more efficient tools,” I explained in an interview.
Idema, who was a Facebook executive before joining WhatsApp last year, said the company intends to charge companies in some way in the future, but added that it was too early to talk about when it would happen or what future business services would be like.
Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for 19,000 million dollars, attracted by the size of its user base. WhatsApp used to charge an annual fee of 1 euro, but discarded it in 2016, which left the service without a source of income.
The options for future income are scarce given that the CEO of WhatsApp, Jan Koum, and Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, have ruled out advertising on WhatsApp, a factor that adds to the popularity of the service.
In a crowded market, WhatsApp competes with Facebook Messenger, WeChat from Tencent Holdings and other messaging services.
WhatsApp said that their accounts for companies would be available immediately through the WhatsApp Business application in the Google Play store in the United Kingdom, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico and the United States.
They have also added that they plans to extend them to other countries in the coming weeks, and include in the future also an iPhone version of Apple.