WhatsApp Free Forever: removal of subscription payments

Martin Brinkmann
Jan 18, 2016

Facebook-owned WhatsApp announced today that it decided to discontinue its annual subscription payment system by turning the application into a free offering.

WhatsApp's previous subscription model was somewhat confusing as some users used the service for free effectively while others were asked to pay a subscription fee to continue using it after the first year of service.

One could say that the $1 per year subscription fee was more than fair, especially if WhatsApp is used on a regular basis, but it may have kept one or the other from using the service in first place or after the first year of service.

WhatsApp noticed this as well, stating that the paid approach did not work well at all for them.


Many WhatsApp users don't have a debit or credit card number and they worried they'd lose access to their friends and family after their first year.

As a consequence, WhatsApp announced the termination of the subscription fee in the coming weeks. Fees will be removed from the application and WhatsApp won't charge its users anymore for the service.

If you check your application right now however, fees are still listed under account > payment information.

There you find options to subscribe to WhatsApp for a year, or at a discounted price for three or five years instead. It makes little sense to renew a subscription right now as WhatsApp will be free in the coming weeks.

So how does WhatsApp plan to earn revenue from the service? The company won't introduce third-party ads on the platform even though it would like be a profitable option.

Instead, it plans to bring users and businesses together in the app.

Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight.

Basically, it tries to move the communication that takes place elsewhere currently, email, snail mail or SMS for instance, to WhatsApp instead. It is likely that it is the businesses that pay for this even though that is not mentioned explicitly in the announcement.

Now You: Do you use WhatsApp? What's your take on the move?

WhatsApp Free Forever: removal of subscription payments
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WhatsApp Free Forever: removal of subscription payments
WhatsApp announced today that it will change the subscription-based service to a free for all service in the coming weeks.
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  1. juju said on January 18, 2016 at 1:20 pm

    >> Do you use WhatsApp? What’s your take on the move?
    No I don’t use it. Probably not a move, but avoidance of mowing.

  2. Rocky said on January 18, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Use it occasionally – seems like a good move so long as it isn’t ads by the backdoor. My phone is very short on memory (512 RAM) and constantly getting cannot update memory messages (from all apps) . Thinking of reverting to a feature phone – does anyone know of a feature phone which can run the Whatsapp app ?

    1. Sleeping said on January 18, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      What do you think about the Nokia 208? It’s pretty good. The only thing to use Whatsapp: keep the chat history clean, ie delete almost every message at least twice a month, or even more if you use it a lot.

      Anyway, back to topic, I prefer paying for a service I use. It is said that if you don’t pay for a product/service, you are the product being sold. I’m starting to believe it is true.

  3. Dave said on January 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    I thought the app is free by default? I have it since release and never paid and the app keeps working. Also on my friends.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on January 18, 2016 at 4:40 pm

      No it was only free for the first year, but it seems that WhatsApp did not enforce payments for many of its users.

  4. Harushi said on January 18, 2016 at 6:35 pm

    It’s free for less developed countries

  5. Gabriel said on January 18, 2016 at 7:28 pm

    I think the fee was only for Android / Blackberry users. I think it has always been 100% free on Iphone.
    Anyways, good news. And if they decide to shove ads in it, we can always switch to Telegram.

    1. Crodol said on January 22, 2016 at 2:14 pm

      Funny, I always thought it was exactly the other way round. :-)


  6. Jojo said on January 18, 2016 at 8:43 pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that FB is making Whatsapp free to attempt to bump up usage and milk all the info it can from users. Maybe verify they are FB users and if not, send invites?

  7. R said on January 19, 2016 at 1:59 am

    “Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.” Are they trying to follow WeChat? WeChat likes to send ads to users without understanding that the things they are promoting are useless and rubbish.

  8. S2015 said on January 19, 2016 at 7:45 am

    It’s normal to read this result: just take a look at the IM war, ICQ vs. QQ vs. WeChat vs. MSN vs. Google Talk… BTW, one man owns both QQ and WeChat, who could be ranked as one of most successful entrepreneurs.

  9. Kenobe said on January 19, 2016 at 8:00 am

    Never used it. WhatsApp doesn’t fair too well on EFF’s Secure Messaging Scorecard: https://www.eff.org/secure-messaging-scorecard

    1. webfork said on January 20, 2016 at 2:52 am

      Ha! Slightly better than Skype and AIM but worse than almost everything else on that list.

  10. George said on January 19, 2016 at 11:30 am

    Do they have any plans to release a Desktop/Windows client? I know about their “for the Web” version, not really useful unfortunately.

    1. Dave said on January 19, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      There is an unofficial Firefox extension called WhatsApp Web Messenger.

      1. George said on January 20, 2016 at 11:20 am

        Thank you Dave, didn’t know about that. It seems it’s the WhatsApp Web service, offered as a convenient browser sidebar. Unfortunately, it shares the same problem as the official service, requiring you to have the smartphone turned on and connected. Not sure why is this, I would think once you’re logged in, you could use it on your PC like Skype messaging, for example. What’s the point of having a Desktop PC service, when the phone is also required? Perhaps I’m missing something here (not really into the whole smartphone thing).

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