Banyan Leveraging Item-Level Receipt Data January 2024 Banner

WhatsApp Head Denies Report That Messaging Service Is Considering Ads

Whatsapp

The head of WhatApp has denied a media report that the messaging service may introduce ads.

“This @FT story is false. We aren’t doing this,” Will Cathcart, head of WhatsApp at Meta, said in a Thursday (Sept. 14) post on X, formerly Twitter.

The Financial Times (FT) had reported, citing unnamed sources, that WhatsApp, a messaging service with 2.23 billion monthly active users, may soon undergo a significant change as its owner, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, explores the introduction of ads to boost revenue.

The potential move has sparked internal controversy within Meta, with concerns over the impact on user experience, according to the report. The mere possibility of ads appearing in lists of conversations on the WhatsApp chat screen has triggered debates within the company, as some fear it could alienate users.

This development contradicts WhatsApp’s original stance on advertising, the report said. Co-founder Brian Acton declared, “No ads! No games! No gimmicks!” before the company’s acquisition by Facebook in 2014. 

Nevertheless, WhatsApp is one of Meta’s few ad-free platforms at a time when the company needs to bolster advertising revenue, particularly in light of macroeconomic uncertainty and investor concerns surrounding its investments in virtual reality and the metaverse, per the report.

Recently, WhatsApp has been testing a feature that allows businesses to send direct marketing messages within the app, with users’ consent, according to the report. If implemented, this feature would expose all WhatsApp users to ads, which would appear alongside their chats with friends and family. The interface would resemble the ad placement in Facebook Messenger and Gmail.

While the potential for advertising on WhatsApp is enticing for marketers, there is a risk that users may perceive it as intrusive, the report said. Senior executives within Meta worry that adopting this model could compromise the user experience on WhatsApp, potentially driving users to seek alternative free messaging platforms.

In another recent development at the company, WhatsApp announced Wednesday (Sept. 13) that Channels, its one-way broadcasting tool that debuted in 10 countries in June, will be rolling out in 150 countries.

Channels offers users “a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers and polls,” the company said when making the announcement.