In a recent interview with Folha de S.Paulo, WhatsApp’s director, Will Cathcart, clarified that the messaging platform is not planning to include advertisements in individual or group chats. However, he revealed that ads could soon appear in other spaces within the app.
When asked about the continued free and ad-free nature of the messenger, Cathcart responded, “Yes, in your inbox and in your messaging experience. The reason I qualified the answer is that there could be ads in other locations — channels or status.”
This statement comes in response to the Financial Times’ September report, which suggested that WhatsApp would introduce ads in conversations, a claim Cathcart had previously denied.
Ads on WhatsApp
The prospect of including advertisements in Status updates seems like a natural progression for the messenger, given the similarity to Instagram and Facebook Stories, where users are already accustomed to seeing ads regularly.
Additionally, at the beginning of 2022, WhatsApp began using the Status feature to promote its own features. Although advertising was confined to in-house functions, this raised concerns that third-party promotions could also be featured.
Regarding advertising in channels, it’s worth noting that this practice is already in place on Telegram. The messaging app created by the Durov brothers displays ads promoting Telegram Premium, the paid version of the application, in some channels.
Therefore, it seems plausible that Meta’s app will follow a similar path, even though there is no indication of a “WhatsApp Premium” for non-commercial use. Currently, the Business version offers a paid option that provides additional features to its users.
Considering the user experience, incorporating ads into chat conversations would be undesirable. Not only would it disrupt the flow of a conversation, but it also raises privacy concerns, creating an atmosphere of being constantly observed — a significant departure from the messenger’s default end-to-end encryption, which is one of its strengths compared to competitors.
Given that WhatsApp needs to generate revenue, the inclusion of ads between Status updates or in channel posts seems like an obvious move. This has the potential to work seamlessly, causing less friction with the audience, as navigating through Status updates and encountering an ad is already a familiar experience in Stories, for example.
Regarding channels, Cathcart explained how it could work: “For example, channels could charge people to subscribe, could be exclusive to paid members, or owners might want to promote the channel.” This suggests a more subtle and potentially useful approach for followers and administrators of a space within the app.
While Cathcart discussed the messenger’s plans to include ads, he provided no hints about when this implementation might occur. WhatsApp users will have to wait for further updates on this potential development.
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