WhatsApp’s head, Will Cathcart, fervently denied the recent report by the Financial Times that suggested that the Meta-owned messaging platform was considering the incorporation of advertisements as a method to augment revenue. In a swift response on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, Cathcart labeled the report as false, stating, “This @FT story is false. We aren’t doing this”. Additionally, WhatsApp clarified in a statement that, though they cannot account for every conversation within the company, the claims made in the report are not in alignment with their current plans or actions. The statement emphasized that they were neither testing nor working on such a project.
The Financial Times, citing anonymous sources, had earlier reported that Meta was in the midst of discussions regarding the potential of displaying ads in chat lists on the WhatsApp screen. It also hinted at the possibility of introducing a membership fee for users seeking an ad-free experience on the app. Despite the back-and-forth, Meta has not officially responded to either the FT report or Cathcart’s subsequent denial.
Expansion and Future Business Endeavours
Despite the controversy surrounding the advertising report, Meta continues to strategize for the future, aiming to bolster engagement across its platforms. As a step in that direction, Meta announced the expansion of WhatsApp Channels to over 150 countries. This service allows users to receive private updates from celebrities, sports teams, and thought leaders, further enhancing the app’s engagement features. The new expansion is slated to roll out globally in the upcoming weeks and months, providing an opportunity for any WhatsApp user to create their own channel on the app.
This move aligns with Meta’s broader vision for WhatsApp since its acquisition in 2014, for a hefty $19 billion. WhatsApp has consistently been a free chat program, but Meta has been exploring avenues to elevate the app’s revenue potential. Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, projected last year that business communications would likely become the “next major pillar” of Meta’s business growth. Platforms like WhatsApp and Messenger are expected to be at the forefront of this development, with WhatsApp’s Business application already witnessing a significant uptick in users, serving over 200 million individuals on its network as of June this year, marking a fourfold increase from about three years ago.