WhatsApp introduces commercial services as Meta, its parent, seeks fresh revenue.

More than eight years after agreeing to buy one of the world’s largest messaging apps, a company formerly known as Facebook has decided to start making money from it.

WhatsApp, a popular messaging service owned by Facebook’s parent company Meta, said on Thursday that it was opening up commercial services to people who want to use the messaging app to power their business. WhatsApp was the biggest step towards making money from this service, which is used by over one billion people globally.

The new initiative allows business owners to access the WhatsApp cloud application programming interface, a way to create custom dashboards on top of WhatsApp software so they can chat with customers and offer customer services more easily.

Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the event announcing the new service, “This is an important step in helping more businesses connect with people and help more people communicate the businesses they want to support – big and small.” . “

WhatsApp plans to charge users how much they interact with customers on a daily basis, ranging from a fraction of a cent to more than 10 cents per conversation, depending on the region. It also plans to offer a free tier with limited services for small businesses.

The move is Meta’s strongest signal that it wants to start making meaningful revenue from WhatsApp, especially as it faces business challenges on many fronts. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $ 22 billion, the company’s most expensive acquisition. For years, WhatsApp was free to use while it cost millions of dollars to run and support Meta.

Now making more money has become paramount. Apple’s changes to the iPhone operating system have hurt Meta’s advertising business and the company has lost millions of users in Russia since it was banned in the country. The war in Ukraine has also upset some of Meta’s advertising operations.

In addition, Meta is navigating a difficult transition to becoming a “metavars” company that provides immersive digital experiences to people. In February, the company lost a quarter of its market value – more than $ 230 billion – after reports of disappointing earnings.

WhatsApp has historically hesitated to make money from its service. The company’s founders cut off ads on the app, and after doubling the idea of ​​charging each user $ 1 a year to use the service, Facebook executives found the idea too anemic and difficult to measure.

By 2018, the founders of WhatsApp were out the door. Mr. Zuckerberg announced plans to bring together all messaging services on his proprietary apps – WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. The company has made changes that allow Facebook to gain more insight into how people use WhatsApp. WhatsApp maintains that none of these changes were used for ad-tracking purposes.

At the same time, WhatsApp’s reach was spreading globally, being accepted by millions of users in Brazil and South America, as well as across the Middle East and the European Union.

Many of them include small and medium sized businesses that use WhatsApp for free to communicate with customers. But, WhatsApp said the experience was clumsy and sometimes difficult to navigate, and was not designed with business services in mind.

WhatsApp’s new product is expected to address such issues, and will allow businesses to communicate more easily with their customers using the app. Businesses paying for Cloud API will also be provided with cloud hosting storage.

Mr. Zuckerberg said WhatsApp’s more than one billion users connect with businesses across the entire messaging service every week and the new product will make things easier for businesses and customers.

Mr. Zuckerberg said in the program. “But for deeper levels of interaction, messaging has become the center of our digital life.”

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