The news of the day is, without a doubt, that WhatsApp will stop charging a dollar a year to its users. However, as spectacular as it may sound, even the change in the business model that is imposed is still exactly the same as yesterday.
How can this be? All equal? If rivers of ink have flowed on this matter, from the specialized press (you just have to look at everything that we have drawn on the matter) to the most generalist. Well yes, everything remains the same, let’s see why.
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Most users do not pay for WhatsApp
In Spain almost everyone uses WhatsApp. And we all know someone who consistently refuses to pay the annual subscription on principle. And although they have sometimes had a scare (a ban that can last a few days), it usually ends up being renewed only for a few months.
Official figures are scarce, but there is some data. In 2013 it had 400 million users and yet it only made 10 million dollars. In 2014 revenues rose to 15 million but users to 600 million.
The reason is obvious: the difficult thing about an instant messaging service is to achieve a good market share. Some, even being free and with very good quality (for example Telegram) do not manage to reach a critical mass like WhatsApp has. WhatsApp could have been more aggressive in charging its users since it had a dominant position, but history shows that it is not so difficult to stop being the first and become irrelevant (ICQ, MSN, Gtalk …).
Therefore, although we are giving the news with great fanfare that WhatsApp becomes free, it already was for most people. And for those of us who paid for it, well, the annual cost was less than the price of a coffee … irrelevant (despite the dust it raised when it began to be charged).
The business model change was imperative
The second thing that we have explained with great profusion to the media is that WhatsApp leaves its business model of charging the user and focuses on the corporate communication market to get the money. But the change is really mandatory and it has nothing to do with WhatsApp stopping charging.
One of the problems that messaging applications have is how to make the number of users profitable. Charging is complicated, as we have seen. And putting advertising on something as personal as a private communication is problematic. So almost everyone is opting to collect from companies or sell accessories that enrich communication skills.
The path of WhatsApp was clear. Facebook’s investment in the company ($ 21.8 billion) imposes a serious business model and there is a clear demand from companies to use WhatsApp to communicate with their customers.
Those nostalgic for paid WhatsApp have nothing to miss
Of all that I have read today on WhatsApp, what has caught my attention the most is a comment from my partner in El Blog Salmón, Javier Navarro:
– Javier (@newjavier) January 18, 2016
Why did you like that WhatsApp was paid? Almost the only thing I have heard in these years since WhatsApp decided (although not very firmly) to charge its users have been complaints. However, paying for something gives you a guarantee: you are paying for a product and you are not the product of a third party.
– Javier (@newjavier) January 18, 2016
If WhatsApp is fully focused on offering services for companies to contact us, the user experience would change significantly. And it is that it would be offering its true customers (companies) what they ask for, something that is normal. On the other hand, as long as they charge the messaging users, the client to be satisfied would change. It seems logical but it is not.
Even if they continue to charge users, WhatsApp does not manage to be profitable (and less if we take into account the price paid by Facebook) with the income of the users. Something would have to be injected to inject money into the platform and the user revenue would be comparatively ridiculous. In fact, they would be so ridiculous that they have decided to eliminate them altogether to avoid being a barrier to entry for new users.
If really we would like an instant messaging platform that focuses on customers based on charging them and making a product focused on them, maybe we should look at corporate tools of this type. Slack (outside of the very limited free version) costs about $ 7 a month. Are we willing to pay this for a product focused on us? I do not believe it.
WhatsApp is now free but it already was for most of its users. And it does not change its business model because I really didn’t have any. That is, everything remains the same. If they have found a way to get money out of you.