Meta released a statement defending itself against accusations that it was planning on inserting in-feed ads into WhatsApp.
The report, which came from the Financial Times, claimed that various teams at WhatsApp’s parent company Meta had been evaluating the option of showing ads in conversation lists with contacts on the app’s homescreen. In response, Meta released its own statement that it hasn’t been working or testing those features and didn’t have any plans for it at all.
FT Technology News had made similar claims, even posting an article on its Twitter/X account. It was then refuted by WhatsApp head Will Cathcart in a quote retweet, who stated the story was false and Meta isn’t pushing out such a feature. Said refute was then added as a community note to the original tweet.
This isn’t the first time Meta has been accused of such plans to monetize its two billion active user base, as analysts have been predicting such a pivot for years. This seems to be based on Meta’s other acquisition, Instagram, which has seen heavy adverts on its users’ feeds for years.
Those accusations haven’t been without merit, however, at least in the past. In both 2018 and 2019, Meta had made plans to show ads in WhatsApp. The Wall Street Journal revealed that there were plans to display ads in the messaging app’s Status feature due to slowing ad revenue, while Olivier Ponteville reported on Twitter that Meta would bring Stories Ads in WhatsApp’s status product in 2020. Since then, the Wall Street Journal published a follow-up story in 2020 stating that Meta was backing off its ad plans and would seek other ways to monetize the platform instead.
And so far it’s already met with plenty of success in making money through its WhatsApp Business, which has the Meta offer services and tools to its 200+ million active userbase. According to TechCrunch, during the company’s Q3 2022 earnings call, the “click-to-WhatsApp” ads reached the annual revenue run rate of $1.5 billion with 80% year-on-year growth.
Meta also updated its pricing structure and messaging categories in June 2023 to increase revenue from WhatsApp Business. This is on top of plans to add more ways to monetize the service, like adding a way for businesses to send users personalized messages on Facebook and Instagram through the app. Or by integrating payments into its new Channels feature that was launched globally in September 2023.
In other words, WhatsApp is making Meta plenty of money right now and the tech/social media giant already has more sustainable plans to generate revenue without ruining WhatsApp to do it.