After unveiling new updates to WhatsApp Business last year, the messaging app's parent company, Facebook, has created a desktop and web version of the service, expanding it far beyond Android devices.
WhatsApp is wildly popular in some parts of the world and a significant chunk of business is done using the messaging app, prompting Facebook to announce the creation of its business-focused service in 2017. WhatsApp Business allows you to communicate with a company -- sort of like pared-down, cheaper customer service method -- and do things like instantly speak to a representative or get quick information.
Last August, WhatsApp added more tools to the previously Android-only business app, including click-to-chat features and real time customer support.
"Since we launched the WhatsApp Business app people have told us that it's quicker and easier to chat with a business than making a call or sending an e-mail. Today we are expanding our support for businesses that need more powerful tools to communicate with their customers," WhatsApp wrote in a blog post.
"We will bring more businesses onto WhatsApp over a period of time. To do so, we will work directly with a few hundred businesses and a select number of companies that specialize in managing customer communications."
Part of the push behind WhatsApp Business is Facebook's desire to start making money off of their two most prized possessions: Instagram and WhatsApp. Both apps see a combined 2.5 billion monthly users worldwide yet neither brings in as much revenue as Facebook, which has been siphoning users in the US for years now.
In a groundbreaking story released today, it was revealed that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg plans to combine the three messaging platforms -- Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram -- in a somewhat fraught effort to monetize the popularity of WhatsApp and Instagram. "The New York Times" story said employees across all three apps had concerns about Zuckerberg's decision to intertwine three very different services all by the end of the year. The Time's Mike Isaac wrote that "all three services will continue operating as stand-alone apps," yet their "underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified."
"When the apps are knitted together, Facebook Marketplace buyers and sellers in Southeast Asia would be able to reach out and communicate with each other using WhatsApp -- which is popular there -- rather than using Facebook Messenger or another, non-Facebook text messaging service. Eventually, that could lead to new ad opportunities or services for profit," Isaac said.
The move has caused concern for a number of different reasons, most notably WhatsApp's dedication to privacy and security. All you need for a WhatsApp account is a phone number, but for the other apps you need to identify yourself in some way. Any effort to combine these platforms would ostensibly tie phone numbers and WhatsApp accounts to Facebook or Instagram profitles.
Facebook's expansion of WhatsApp Business is only one prong of their effort to monetize the secure messaging app and integrate it fully into the social media giant's ecosystem of platforms. But it is proving to be a successful prong. Android Police said 5 million small businesses use WhatsApp Business, with hundreds of other major corporations using their other service for large companies.
"From lead generation and promotion to after-sales service and collection, WhatsApp has served as a CRM and customer-facing website rolled into one -- there are even startups dedicated to making selling over WhatsApp easier," writes Aatif Sumar of Android Police.
"All this means we should expect new features to keep making their way to the app, and in my opinion, monetization of WhatsApp Business seems like a much better option than adding advertisements to the largely-unused Status section.
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- WhatsApp Business has released a desktop and version of their app.
- Nearly 5 million small businesses across the globe use the secure messaging app.
- WhatsApp to start showing ads in its app and charge businesses texting fees
- WhatsApp shows photos to notifications for Android Pie
- Google Drive won't count backups from WhatsApp toward your storage cap
- WhatsApp faces misinformation problem in Nigeria, reports say (CNET)
- WhatsApp caps message forwarding to five instances to fight fake news (ZDNet)
- WhatsApp could be a bad choice for your encrypted business messages (TechRepublic)