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  • Writer's pictureRoundabout team

WhatsApp: Facebook shelves plan to fill app with ads

WhatsApp’s more-than-a-billion users will be pleased to know they won’t be confronted with endless ads on the messaging app anytime soon.

Its parent company, Facebook, has backpedaled on its plan to incorporate ads into the app, people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal this week.

It’s not clear what led to the decision to shelve the plan, but according to the Journal, the team that had been working on the idea has recently been disbanded, with their work apparently deleted from WhatsApp’s code.

Two years ago, a WhatsApp executive said it was aiming to incorporate ads into the app’s Stories-like Status feature, but this week’s report suggests any such move is now a long way from happening. If it ever does.

Interestingly, the Journal says that the plan to put ads into the Status feature was a significant factor in the departure of the app’s two co-founders — Brian Acton, who left in 2017, and Jan Koum, who quit the following year. At the time, most reports put their departure down to Facebook’s reported desire to make use of WhatsApp’s user data, as well as fears that the parent company might weaken WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption through the launch of new business tools for the app.

Acton and Koum were well known to be against amassing user data and putting ads on their messaging platform, an approach that was markedly different to its owner. That’s why the pair demanded assurances from Facebook when the social networking giant offered to acquire the messaging app for an astonishing $19 billion in 2014, five years after its launch.

But a couple of years after the acquisition, WhatsApp ditched its only source of revenue — a $1 annual fee — raising concerns that Facebook was looking to monetize the app with ads. A while later, reports surfaced that Acton ad Koum felt unnerved about the direction in which Facebook was taking the company, prompting the founders to walk out.

For the time being at least, it appears Facebook is putting its efforts into developing new features for WhatsApp aimed at helping businesses and customers to connect with one another.

It’s impossible to say that ads will never show up on WhatsApp, but this week’s news suggests that the messaging platform will stay ad-free for the foreseeable future.

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