Whatsapp, an app you can’t really live without. An easy-to-use lightweight messenger which is even able to send and receive messages even on 2G network is loved by all. Wikipedia of Whatsapp states that as of February 2018, the current user base is estimated to be around 1.5 BILLION. Thanks to the growing popularity in countries like India, Whatsapp has achieved massive success and growth in recent years.
Whatsapp has its own set of unique features which is why no other social messaging apps has really been able to break into the market of Social Messaging Apps. It is available on almost every modern mobile platform for free use. Whatsapp along with standard text messaging offers sending and receiving images, videos and documents. The biggest feature being absence of ads and the messaging service being totally free of cost. You can do voice or video calling as well, making it the “almost” perfect messaging client. Developers keep the app updated on a regular basis. Registering on Whatsapp is as easy as just entering your phone number and it will do the rest authentication itself. Enter your name and you’re good to go.
Whatsapp initially started with 1$ per year subscription model. Since 2009, Whatsapp has only grown and was known to have around 400 million users according to a report from December 2013. Many users had reported at that time that whenever the subscription renew update would be nearby, Whatsapp would extend the date itself thus making it free to use.
In 2014, Whatsapp’s growing popularity resulted in it being bought by Facebook for a staggering amount of $19.3 billion. After the acquisition, they announced that the era of subscriptions has ended and now Whatsapp will be totally free cost for users.
Forbes has estimated the total revenue is around $5 million and the average revenue per user would be somewhere around $4.
So the question is : Without any ads and without charging users a single penny for their services, how does Whatsapp make money?
The concerning problem here is Whatsapp’s business model isn’t even about money. It’s about our information, chats, behaviour, mood, shopping choices and what not.
Whatsapp was acquired by Facebook to have access to user’s personal information and behaviour data. With location sharing, billions of chats and personal contacts of users, Facebook has managed to get access to a lot of information. All safely uploaded regularly on their own servers. This is why we see ads of products we might have discussed on Whatsapp someday.
With such great information available on Whatsapp servers, big companies could be paying huge amounts for data extraction. For all we know, Whatsapp here could be selling the information to third parties for displaying targeted ads and running campaigns. Everyday it seems like the internet is following us, Thank you Mr. Zuckerberg!
Whatsapp CEO has clearly stated that Whatsapp is only and has always been for messaging and will never be for things such as forced advertising. After facing problems with legal authorities to provide them encryption keys to get information on terrorists and other suspects, they announced End-to-end encryption which will let nobody else gain illegal access or read your chats. Not even Whatsapp themselves.
Literally fooling in the name of end-to-end encryption, Whatsapp takes our chat backups and uses them for targeted ads and might even be selling them. Facebook still has access to our chats even though Mr. Zuckerberg has constantly denied it. Our phone usage is tracked (OK Google!), locations are tracked and even chats are used. Privacy is a myth on the internet these days anyway.
This information, shared by Whatsapp and Facebook to third-parties is dangerous. Every time you accept any terms & conditions (which you ofcourse don’t read), you clearly give all your data away. Our data could be easily misused against us, and we’ll never be able to know who did the damage before it’s too late.
Whatsapp doesn’t show ads. Because it doesn’t need to. They don’t even need the money because they get something way more valuable than money, our information.