Facebook still plans to put ads in its hugely popular instant messaging app WhatsApp. According to The Information, the social media giant will start pushing ads in WhatsApp after it has unified its messaging applications.
The company plans to show targeted ads to users in WhatsApp Status, the app's version of Stories. It will link the user's phone number to their Facebook account in order to determine which ads to show. However, it may take several years for this plan to finalize.
The company wants to unify its messaging apps and according to the new report, WhatsApp will take the longest to integrate. But ads will certainly start showing up on the app at some point.
"Ads in Status remains a long-term opportunity for WhatsApp," a Facebook spokesperson told Engadget.
WhatsApp will show ads in the future
Facebook has been long mulling over the idea of bringing advertising to WhatsApp Status. The company unveiled this plan of monetizing the app in November 2018. In May last year, it even announced that the app will start showing ads in 2020.
However, those plans were put "on ice" in January this year as Facebook disbanded the team that was working on them. This decision was reportedly taken by CEO Mark Zuckerberg to avoid attracting the ire of regulators.
Facebook has already attracted enough attention from regulators over its handling of user data. The company is facing several antitrust investigations in different parts of the world.
Facebook's decision of putting ads in WhatsApp has proven controversial within the company itself as well. WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton have been openly vocal against this idea. The duo even changed WhatsApp's terms of service to explicitly forbid displaying ads in the app. However, they were clearly overruled by their new superiors.
Both of them eventually left Facebook. "I sold my users' privacy to a larger benefit," said Acton in an interview with Forbes in 2018. "I made a choice and a compromise. And I live with that every day."
Some Facebook executives are also worried that this move could prompt WhatsApp users to delete their Facebook accounts.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp for a whopping $22 billion in 2014 and it has yet to pay financial dividends. The app currently has over 2 billion users globally, so that's a huge revenue stream to tap for the company.
It may have temporarily paused the plans of putting ads in Status but the company certainly wants to add some "money-making features" to the app. There's no timeframe as to when this may happen, though.