WhatsApp, one of the world’s most popular messaging services with a user base of over 1 billion is currently planning a new feature that will allow businesses to get in touch directly with the WhatsApp user base.
Reuters reports that sources familiar to the agency claim that this new feature is currently in testing stages. WhatsApp, in fact, is said to have collaborated with a number of Y Combinator startups for taking this project ahead. For the uninitiated, Y Combinator is one of the largest American seed accelerators and have had many heavy weight participants like Airbnb, Dropbox in the past.
WhatsApp is probably considering this new feature as a revenue generator for the company. The popular messaging service apparently hasn’t had a business model ever since its acquisition by Facebook for whooping $19 billion.
With this new feature in place, both WhatsApp and businesses are set to gain a lot. While business can use the medium as a mode of communication with prospective customers, WhatsApp can levy a charge on the companies for using its service. That said, it might risk the possibility of spam messages being delivered and it would be interesting to see how the messaging service plans to combat this apparent con.
The report further reveals that WhatsApp is also surveying users regarding the extent to which they would like to talk to businesses on the messaging service. Incidentally, WhatsApp had gone public about its plan to develop a similar system last year using an API; wherein a user could directly contact service providers like bank, airlines, hotel for any help.
One of the Y Combinator companies called Cowlar has apparently divulged a few details regarding this impending feature. Cowlar Inc. co-founder, Umer Ilyas claims that this new feature may be boon for their company. The company which manufactures collars for dairy cows collects data on their activities and recommends changes to improve milk yield believes that this feature will help them deliver automatic alerts from the collars directly to the farmers, in case a cow is not behaving normally.
There is no information on how exactly (and to what extent) WhatsApp will open up its service to the businesses, and whether the feature will be opt-in or thrust upon the billion+ users. WeChat, the Tencent-owned chat app from China has successfully transformed itself into a complete platform. There is no reason why Facebook can do the same with WhatsApp.