WhatsApp is to introduce ads from next year, Facebook has confirmed. The social media giant made the announcement at its annual Marketing Summit in the Netherlands yesterday.
Photos of the ads were shared online of the ads, with them appearing to take the same format as Instagram stories, with users swiping up to engage with ads.
— Olivier Ponteville (@Olivier_Ptv) May 21, 2019
When WhatsApp launched in 2009 its creators promised that it would not sell its users data or put ads on the platform. Instead, they charged a yearly fee of 99c to generate revenue and cover costs.
After the takeover by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp experienced a huge growth in users, as of now has around 1.5 billion in 180 countries.
Co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton have both left the messaging app in recent years and have been critical of attempts to monetise the app.
Two years before the Facebook takeover, Koum explained his stance towards advertising. In a blog post entitled "Why we don't sell ads" on the WhatsApp website, Koum begins by quoting the movie Fight Club:
Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can by shit we don't need, Remember, when advertising is involved, you the user are the end product.
It is clear from this blog post that their vision for the popular messaging app was to connect people and never to sell advertising. In his own words, Koum says:
No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they'll see tomorrow. We know people go to sleep excited about who they chatted with that day (and disappointed about who they didn't). We want WhatsApp to be the product that keeps you awake... and that you reach for in the morning. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.
He also adds:
Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.