Whether WhatsApp will ever turn to an advertising led business model — just like its parent and all of its other sister apps — is a debate that few have had answers to. While users have loved the simple yet powerful, no-ads messaging app for a very long time, investors and business experts often critique on how Facebook seems to be missing a massive revenue opportunity, as it fails to monetise much of WhatsApp. Well, we may have some answers now.
A strange new status update on WhatsApp, noticed by users early morning here in India, points towards the possibility of advertisements on the messaging app. What is unique about this status update you ask? Well, the update seems to coming in from WhatsApp’s own official account, even though you may have never saved it in your contacts.
There is no information on the user and neither can you click on the user name (which is WhatsApp itself) to figure out who is sending this out. It just appears in the list of other statuses, just like any other normal status update from your contacts. Here’s a look on how it looks:
This experiment comes in after Facebook made it clear, several times in 2020 and 2021, that ads would eventually come to WhatsApp through status updates. What we hadn’t seen, was an actual implementation of how that would be done.
The status update shown above, comes from WhatsApp’s official ‘WhatsApp’ account, and is seen promoting its UPI-enabled payments feature in India. It also gets a ‘Tap to get started’ call-to-action button at the bottom, hinting that businesses could also add links to their statuses to direct users to their product pages.
It is well known that you only see status updates from people stored in your contacts. Above that, if the you or your contact has enabled additional privacy settings, then you can also hide your status from specific folks. Never have we at least, seen a random status update appear from nowhere, and that too from an account that is not a part of the regular contact list.
It seems that WhatsApp is perhaps testing or may have rolled out a beta/pilot of possible status-driven ads on the app. What this could mean, is businesses could advertise themselves by adding their updates to users’ list of status updates, without even being a contact on their device. Businesses will also get an option to add a link-back to their product page, as can be seen in the screenshots above.
While this feature would surely help businesses, and would in turn help Meta Inc generate sizeable revenues from Whatsapp, we are not too sure on how this will go through with the users. While it is only rational that WhatsApp eventually gets ads, but could there have been a better way? Or maybe this is a better and less intrusive way of showing up ads. They are not coming up in chats at least, for now.