Facebook said on Monday it could let businesses interact with users of WhatsApp, the popular messaging service it purchased for $21.8 billion last year.
$21.8 billion!! And you actually believed advertising will not be integrated somehow?!
“We think that enabling that B2C [business-to-consumer] messaging has good business potential for us” Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Wehner explained on Monday at a tech conference in Boston.
“As we learn those things, I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of those things to WhatsApp, but that’s more longer term.”
The news was first reported by Bloomberg on Monday. A Facebook spokesperson declined to comment on the matter.
With 800 million users now — up from 600 million last August — WhatsApp has grown rapidly since ex-Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Acton founded the company in 2009, particularly in Europe and parts of Asia. But profit remains elusive for WhatsApp, for now…
In October, Facebook for the first time disclosed financial information for the messaging service, revealing, for example, that WhatsApp made nearly $16 million in revenues during the first half of 2014 but lost $232 million during the same period, mostly from stock-related expenses. The situation looked pretty similar for 2013, when the company generated $10.2 million in revenues for the year but likewise hemorrhaged $138 million, also from stock-related expenses. Given that history, it makes sense for Facebook to consider a B2C feature for WhatsApp, where it charges businesses for access to users.
The service obviously has huge global reach, and Facebook already has some businesses, including Everlane and Zulily, engaging with customers via Messenger — a feature announced at this year’s F8 conference in March. What’s unclear, though, is how well B2C messaging will do on WhatsApp, which has mostly steered clear of revenue-generating gimmicks like advertising and games. Zuckerberg, meanwhile, has said he’s in no rush to transform services like WhatsApp into businesses until they hit 1 billion users.
But WhatsApp could hit that milestone by end of 2015, according to Alcarez Equity Research, meaning Zuckerberg could want WhatsApp to become a viable business sooner than later.