Reports have surfaced that in recent months WhatsApp has disbanded a team that had been established to find the best ways to integrate ads into the service. On top of that the team’s work was then deleted from WhatsApp’s code. Facebook bought WhatsApp in a $22 billion acquisition in 2014 that has yet to pay financial dividends despite the service being used by more than 1.5 billion people globally. WhatsApp is among the quartet of popular Facebook services, along with Instagram, Messenger and the core Facebook platform, that attract a combined 2.8 billion monthly users.
Created in 2009, WhatsApp initially made money from download fees and then a $0.99 annual subscription. Following the purchase Facebook decided to make the platform free. In 2018 Facebook made public plans to generate more revenue from the app by selling ads amongst other streams. A year ago, WhatsApp’s then-chief executive, Chris Daniels, called ads a “primary monetization mode” for the company. Facebook formally unveiled prototypes last May for ads in its Status feature, which allows ephemeral postings similar to Instagram’s Stories. Despite all this it seems that the project and its aspirations are dead.
If WhatsApp is going to become the money making force the Facebook flagship represents, then Facebook needs to monetize on what many users in developing nations have, tha the platform can be used to promote commerce and facilitate customer service. This is in contrast the way the U.S. and many European countries perceive and use WhatsApp, largely for interpersonal communication.