Facebook owned instant messaging service WhatsApp is reportedly testing business tools. According to Reuters, the company is considering allowing businesses to directly approach customers and potential customers on the platform, for the first time ever.
Apparently, WhatsApp is conducting a series of tests which have various companies from the Y Combinator startup incubator as participants. The news wouldn’t be surprising considering that the company has been operating for years now, without any sustainable source of income. It initially planned to charge users an annual subscription however, that plan was scrapped later in favor of developing an alternative business model.
WhatsApp has since then been scratching its head, attempting to come up with something that would turn into a potential revenue source. After all, its been three years since its acquisition and although it now has Facebook’s backing, it is still a business. Advertising is out of question as well, since that is just not how WhatsApp likes to operate.
However, WhatsApp is taking a very cautious approach. After all, it wouldn’t want to ruin the experience and all that it has built by having businesses spam customers with random messages. Towards that end, the company is also conducting extensive surveys among its users regarding the amount of spam they have received.
Note that only a handful of companies from Ycombinator are even allowed into this program, so it is safe to assume that WhatsApp is keeping a tight leash on everything. Once — if — it releases the program to the public, things could well be much different. However, the instant messaging services will undoubtedly take the difficulties and challenges of scaling into account before taking so drastic a step.
And its not all about businesses spamming innocent customers either. WhatsApp is one of the most widely used modicum of conversation on the planet. It could just as easily be used to provide customer support or periodic alerts after first obtaining the permission of the user in question. Apart from generating revenue, it would also keep WhatsApp spam free and make it downright useful.
WhatsApp is developing APIs, that much is already quite well-known. However, no one appears to be willing to comment upon these tests just yet.