WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by Meta, may soon introduce ads in some parts of the app, according to the company’s head Will Cathcart. In a recent interview with a Brazilian publication, Cathcart confirmed that the platform will not display ads in the main inbox or chats, but advertisements might be shown in two other sections of the app: status and channels.
What Are the Status and Channels?
Status is a feature that allows users to share images, videos, and texts that disappear after 24 hours, similar to Instagram and Facebook stories. Channels are a new feature that WhatsApp is testing, which will allow users to follow and interact with content creators, celebrities, and businesses on the platform.
Why is WhatsApp Planning to Show Ads?
WhatsApp is a free service that does not charge users for using its features. However, the company needs to generate revenue to sustain its operations and development. One way to do that is to show ads to users, which will also benefit the advertisers who want to reach WhatsApp’s massive user base of over 2 billion users.
Cathcart said that the company does not think placing ads in the inbox is a suitable model. “People, when they open their inbox, don’t want to see advertising,” he said. He added that other places in the messaging service could be ripe for ads.
“For example, channels might charge people to subscribe, they might be exclusive to paid members or the owners might want to promote the channel. But, no, we won’t put ads in your inbox,” he said.
WhatsApp head Will Cathcart emphasised that these ads won’t appear inside chatboxes:
— Tech Informer (@Tech_Informer_) November 10, 2023
How Will WhatsApp Show Ads?
WhatsApp has not revealed the details of how it will show ads to users in status and channels. However, previous reports have suggested that WhatsApp could introduce ads in the status section in 2018, but later scrapped the idea in 2020, possibly due to the backlash from users and co-founders.
The ads in status could be similar to how Instagram and Facebook show ads in their stories, where users can swipe up to visit the advertiser’s website or app.
As for channels, WhatsApp could show ads in different ways, such as allowing channel owners to charge users for subscriptions, offering exclusive content to paid members, or promoting their channel to other users.
WhatsApp could also use the phone numbers of users to match their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts and serve them targeted ads based on their interests and preferences.
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How Will Ads Affect User Privacy?
One of the main concerns of users is how WhatsApp will protect their privacy while showing ads. WhatsApp is known for its end-to-end encryption feature, which ensures that only the sender and receiver can read the messages, and not even WhatsApp or Meta can access them.
Cathcart said that the company will not compromise on this feature and will not use the content of the messages to show ads. He also said that users will have control over their privacy settings and can choose to block or report any unwanted ads or channels.