Social Commerce

WhatsApp Opens Up For Business Messaging

After Facebook paid a staggering $22 billion for WhatsApp, the most popular question that followed was “why?” WhatsApp had lots of users at the time — still does — but Facebook already had lots of core services users, as well as a lot of Messenger users (especially once the company split it out as its own app) and Instagrammers. WhatsApp didn’t have a proven ability to generate profit, thus the questions about why Facebook would pay so very much for it.

The answer has been slowly taking shape since then.

The news broke yesterday (Aug. 25) that WhatsApp’s privacy policy is getting a retool and allowing businesses to message the billion or so people who use the service. A revenue stream beckons. Going forward, by signing up, WhatsAppers confirm that they are allowing companies to send messages that are still largely delivered (and ignored) via SMS. How those messages will be used remains to be seen. Some forecast that uses will include fraud alerts from banks and updates from airlines.

Despite the shift — the first major one of its kind — WhatsApp remains adamant that its strong encryption means it doesn’t have access to the content of users’ messages.

“We want to explore ways for you to communicate with businesses that matter to you, while still giving you an experience without third-party banner ads and spam,” the company said in a blog post.

This is the first time WhatsApp has shared data with its parent firm. When Facebook first snatched it up, there were wide concerns (that were broadly waved off) that FB would soon start changing WhatsApp’s privacy policy so it could more efficiently mine its data.

“Your encrypted messages stay private, and no one else can read them. Not WhatsApp, not Facebook, nor anyone else,” the WhatsApp blog post said. “We won’t post or share your WhatsApp number with others, including on Facebook, and we still won’t sell, share or give your phone number to advertisers.”

WhatsApp is not Facebook’s only messaging system, of course. Its eponymous app is also opening up to businesses through the integration of chatbots.

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