WhatsApp in recent months disbanded a team that had been established to find the best ways to integrate ads into the service, according to people familiar with the matter. The team’s work was then deleted from WhatsApp’s code, the people said.
Plans to monetize WhatsApp were floated no longer after Facebook acquired the messaging service in February 2014 for $22 billion. WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum and Brian Acton continually pushed back against the plans, which were a factor that ultimately led both men to quit the company.
Prior to leaving, Koum and Acton changed WhatsApp’s terms of service to explicitly forbid displaying ads in the app, which complicated Facebook’s future efforts to do so, according to WSJ‘s sources.
Facebook has changed its platforms’ terms of service in the past, but introducing ads on WhatsApp would have required a formal notification of users, creating a potential public-relations problem for Facebook.
Still, Facebook hasn’t completely given up on inserting ads into WhatsApp, and reportedly plans to add them to the app’s Status feature “at some point.” Status allows users to create short-lived posts similar to Instagram’s Stories.
However, for now the focus is said to be on developing money-making features that enable businesses to communicate with customers and better manage those interactions.
Before the acquisition, WhatsApp was initially a paid-for app and later transitioned to a $0.99 annual subscription service. Facebook made the service free after buying it and later unveiled its own revenue-generating plans for the platform, which has 1.5 billion users globally.