WhatsApp is a messaging app designed to get around the rip-off that is text messaging. Yes, text messaging is a rip-off; there is quite literally no cost, whatsoever, to your mobile carrier for sending a text message, so why are you paying them for a “service” they should be giving you for free. WhatsApp offered a much better solution; pay a dollar up front, and save a fortune on text messaging. It also lets you bridge the gap between various smartphone platforms, as WhatsApp couldn’t care less about which phone you’re using.
And it still offers a better solution, it’s just that now, you’ll have to cough up a buck a year. Yep, after the first year of using WhatsApp, you now have to pay $1 to keep using it for another year. Which is still a lot cheaper than an SMS plan, but like any change, not everyone is happy about it.
It’s not hard to see why WhatsApp decided to go with a subscription model, even one as cheap as a buck. It sees 200 million users a month, quite a few of which are in Europe as text messaging rates there are utterly ridiculous, and trades billions of messages back and forth. Furthermore, the founders hate advertising with a passion, having spent a lot of time at Yahoo! trying to sell ads, and don’t want to incorporate it into the app. So if they want to keep the app going, they have to look into other solutions.
Still, we’d imagine quite a few WhatsApp users are going to be a little grouchy about this. While the price is fair for what you get, it’s still a shift from what came before, and as we all know from Facebook updates… that tends to be greeted with hostility.
Dan Seitz is an obsessive nerd living in New England. He lives in the Boston area with a fiancee, a dog, a cat, and far too many objects with processors.