WhatsApp extended its support for Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread and older versions of Google’s operating system until February 1, 2020, the Facebook-owned instant messaging (IM) service revealed on Wednesday. The company updated its software support pages at some point in the last 24 hours to reflect its intentions of continuing active development for already obsolete Android builds in the next half a decade, without providing more concrete details on the matter. It’s unlikely that the number of WhatsApp users that are still on Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread and older versions of the OS is a significant portion of the company’s base seeing how those builds account for barely two percentage points of all currently active Android devices in the world, according to the latest distribution chart published by the Alphabet-owned company earlier this month.
While WhatsApp may be adamant to continue development for its communications service designed for relatively old versions of Android, it remains to be seen how Facebook’s subsidiary is planning to keep its users updated given how Google is planning to discontinue Android Market support for legacy smartphones and tablets in exactly nine days. While that move won’t affect users on Froyo and Gingerbread, the Mountain View, California-based tech giant is expected to cut them off in the near future, meaning WhatsApp will have to come up with an alternative distribution method for this portion of its user base. It’s possible that the firm is only planning on continuing server-side development for legacy Android builds and won’t be introducing any major features for them in the next four and a half years, though no clarification on the matter has yet been given.
WhatsApp changed in a radical manner in the last eight years, especially following Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of the service in early 2014, the company’s second-largest to date. While still primarily focused on messaging, WhatsApp has recently been introducing a wide variety of features inspired by social networks and other online platforms in an effort to provide its users with an entire ecosystem of services. Even though this product strategy may not necessarily appeal to everyone, it allows the company to monetize its offerings in a more efficient manner seeing how completely streamlined IM apps don’t offer a great return on investment.