- Facebook is conducting limited tests allowing businesses to open chats in its messaging app WhatsApp, according to communications reported on by Reuters. WhatsApp has over 1 billion users worldwide.
- The tests are part of a partnership with the startup accelerator program Y Combinator, first reported on last year. They arrive as a bid to find new revenue streams for the app.
- One of the hurdles WhatsApp is grappling with is how to avoid spam messages. WhatsApp is popular in remote areas with weaker internet connectivity, and especially in countries outside of the U.S.
Of Facebook's standalone messaging apps, Messenger has always been the more marketer-friendly, with an open API allowing for chatbots, in-app payments and other features that encourage dedicated use from brands. The news suggests that Facebook is now looking to put its two properties on more equal footing in a business sense, though in somewhat different markets given WhatsApp more international user base.
Still, this might come as a surprising move given Facebook's past statements in regards to its WhatsApp strategy.
When Facebook acquired WhatsApp three years ago for $19 billion, it appeared to be taking a more hands-off approach than with its other properties, at least in a business sense. However, that obviously meant limiting the ability to monetize WhatsApp as a product.
Recently, Facebook's attitude has appeared to change considerably. Last August, for example, Facebook announced it was going to begin sharing WhatsApp data for ad targeting on its namesake platform, which led the company to face intense backlash from consumer privacy groups.
Opening the chat service further to businesses would be a big start to making marketers more interested in WhatsApp, which has an enormous user base often relegated to more remote or foreign areas many big businesses can't typically reach.
Facebook has also been building out WhatsApp's functionality past basic user-to-user messages, adding Snapchat-like features just last month, which are expected to roll out globally soon.