Why it matters: WhatsApp is one of the apps in Facebook’s stable that has so far avoided pushing ads out to users, but it won’t stay that way. A new report reveals that the company does plan to insert advertisements into the world’s most popular messaging service after the process of unifying all Facebook messaging apps is completed.
Before it was acquired by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, WhatsApp had always insisted that ads wouldn’t come to the platform, but co-founder Brian Acton said the social network was planning to insert ads into the app even before the acquisition was complete.
In 2018, a WhatsApp executive confirmed that advertisements would start appearing in the ‘Status’ section—its version of Instagram/Facebook’s Stories, where users can post ephemeral photos, videos, text, and GIFs.
Users breathed a sigh of relief in 2018 when Facebook said it had put plans for WhatsApp ads “on ice,” but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening. A Facebook spokesperson told Engadget that “ads in Status remains a long-term opportunity for WhatsApp.”
The Information has revealed some worrying details on Facebook’s plans to target people with personalized ads. The company is planning to use phone numbers to link WhatsApp and Facebook accounts, allowing it to determine what ads to show people based on their FB interests. Some executives are reportedly concerned that the plans will lead WhatsApp users to delete their Facebook accounts, which is understandable. Regulators will likely object to the move, too.
The good news is that Facebook will take years to merge its messaging apps, so we should enjoy an ad-free WhatsApp for quite a while, but it won’t be that way forever.