WhatsApp is one of the most popular messaging services in the world, but its owner Meta (formerly Facebook) hasn’t quite figured out how to make buckets of money from it. Now the company has a new feature that might change that.
Meta announced that it’s rolling out the WhatsApp Cloud API to all businesses worldwide, which has been in beta testing since November. The functionality allows companies to integrate WhatsApp messages from customers or clients into their back-end systems. For example, someone could send a message to a local computer repair shop about their broken laptop, which could then be automatically added to the shop’s task system, and someone from the shop could message back with answers about the repair.
Importantly, Meta will charge businesses to use the cloud APIs, which is part of the company’s long-term goal of monetizing the app without upsetting users. Meta tried to place advertisements in the app a few years ago, which caused one of WhatsApp’s co-founders to leave the company in 2018. Meta reportedly gave up placing ads in WhatsApp in late 2019.
The good news is that, as long as businesses are willing to pay up for chat tools, WhatsApp will probably keep working the same for normal people. Plans are always changing, but for the moment, Meta doesn’t have any (public) intentions to put Facebook or Instagram-like advertisements in WhatsApp.
This new business product isn’t completely new — it’s just a cloud version of the WhatsApp Business API, which was also a paid product for companies. However, Meta expects more groups will use the new cloud option, since it runs entirely on Meta’s servers (companies don’t have to host their own) and can supposedly be set up within a few minutes.
WhatApp’s new tools for business are also helpful for customers. Companies can use it set up automated quick replies, greeting messages, FAQs, away messaging, and other options. At the very least, it should give you a slightly-better experience than an automated customer support phone call.