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Is WhatsApp free lunch?

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Assertions that WhatsApp is an incredible app are perhaps undisputable. What is disputable, however, is that its an appetising free lunch.

The original creators of WhatsApp decided from the onset never to use advertising material on their app. This was unique because everybody else in the industry monetised using some direct or indirect advertising scheme.

It was for this reason that WhatsApp wore the badge ‘no advertising’ when it started.

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Applications like Google Search and Facebook use advertising material to generate income just like newspapers do. The truth of the matter is that the tag price of a newspaper does not cover its cost. Adverts subsidise the cost of the newspaper.

Every time you click sponsored links during Google search, advertising income is generated.

Facebook harvests information about you that may be supplied to advertisers. S u c h information is used to target promotions to you. That information is not given out for free.

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With ‘no advertising’ policy, how did the creators of WhatsApp ever envisage to generate income to support the app?

The plan was to let you use WhatsApp for a year for free and then start to charge you a dollar for yearly use.

A dollar per year may not have sounded that much money but when you factored in the huge numbers the application was attracting, that was some decent income.

Generally, many people believe that advertising is evil because it perhaps generates much more than what may be considered reasonable. Adverts have the tendency to clutter content. It is, therefore, not surprising that the ‘no advertising’ philosophy drew droves to WhatsApp.

WhatsApp increasing popularity became a threat to companies like Facebook.

The fastest way to kill competition in business is an acquisition. It happened. Facebook bought WhatsApp.

Once WhatsApp was under its wraps, Facebook had little to worry about as that became the bullet that sent the ‘no advertising’ mantra into smithereens.

Today, WhatsApp collects a lot of information about you that it passes to advertisers to target adverts to you. Next time an advert about ginger appears on your email, don’t be surprised, WhatsApp may have picked it from your conversations.

WhatsApp will not reveal what information it collects from you and who benefits from it.

What shall we say about these things? WhatsApp used to be free lunch. It no longer is. It charges you using a different currency; your data.

One more thing, rest I in peace great scribe Limbani Moya, what a great cheer leader!

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