WhatsApp founder Jan Koum has confirmed plans to drop the messaging service’s $1 per year subscription fee. Koum hopes the move will make WhatsApp more accessible, and promises that users won’t have to see ads as a result.
The annual subscription fee, which formerly kicked in after after 12 months, “really doesn’t work that well,” Koum said at the DLD Conference in Munich on Monday. “We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off.”
Dropping the fee takes away that concern, and allows users who cannot afford the $1 fee to use WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family. Recode reports that subscription fees won’t disappear immediately, but will be phased out over “a few weeks.”
There are now concerns about how else WhatsApp will make money, but the Facebook-owned business promises it won’t bother users with ads and other sponsored spam.
“Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads,” reads a WhatsApp blog post. “The answer is no.”
Instead, WhatsApp plans to introduce “tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight.”
This approach is already being used by Facebook Messenger, which gives businesses the opportunity to connect with customers and even sell services — such as Uber rides — through the Facebook platform.