At the beginning of his keynote at the F8 Developers conference, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged the departure of WhatsApp founder Jan Koum. Zuckerberg recognized Koum’s contribution to making WhatsApp the world’s largest encrypted messaging service, despite reports that the latter left due to concerns about Facebook trying to weaken encryption to monetise user data.
Now, a report highlights that Koum’s fear might actually be true and Facebook could be planning to push ads on WhatsApp to open a new window for extra revenue. “Once Jan leaves, that’s when the ads show up“, Barclays analyst Ross Sandler wrote in a note to Facebook investors, highlighting that Koum had long opposed monetization using the app, especially so soon after Facebook had acquired it.
Sandler predicts that Koum’s departure could “mark the starting point for more aggressive monetization” of the popular messaging service. He forecast that by 2020, WhatsApp and Facebook will have a combined revenue of $11 billion – and that is a “conservative” hunch.
In July last year, Facebook opened up about its plans to show ads within the Messenger app. On the other hand, WhatsApp has around 1.5 billion active users per month, which is nearly twice what Messenger has, and that provides a great potential to Facebook’s ad revenue.
These speculations come at a time when Facebook is strengthening the messaging app’s ability to serve businesses as an effective customer service platform. At F8, the company announced its plans to engage bigger brand on WhatsApp business. WhatsApp ads, so to say, might just fall in line with the development. At the same event, Facebook announced partnerships with content providers like Spotify and Gaana and could also gain some revenue traction if usage of these features increases.
WhatsApp, like Facebook, has a near-monopoly in its category, as many users depend on the app for their daily conversations. And just like the lukewarm response to #DeleteFacebook, we don’t expect usage to drop in any significant when the ads come around – even though it might hamper the experience of many users.