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Facebook’s WhatsApp Is Now Free

WhatsApp announced earlier today that it would be removing its annual subscription fee (US$0.99 per year, after the first year). From Re/code's report of the announcement:

"It really doesn’t work that well,” Koum [WhatsApp founder] said Monday, speaking at the DLD conference in Munich. He noted that while a buck a year might not sound like much, access to credit cards is not ubiquitous. “We just don’t want people to think at some point their communication to the world will be cut off.”

Until now, WhatsApp has been free for the first year and 99 cents for additional years. It will stop charging subscription fees immediately but it will likely be a few weeks before the payments infrastructure is completely out of all versions of the app. And, in case you were wondering, you won’t be able to get back your buck if you have already paid for this year.

WhatsApp will stay ad-free, and instead the company will begin testing new tools that will enable WhatsApp users to communicate with businesses and organizations. The WhatsApp blog post about this announcement gives the example of being able to communicate with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent. Which, as Re/code's report points out, is a familiar strategy:

It’s the same idea behind Facebook Messenger, the company’s other standalone messaging service. With Messenger, Facebook already offers users the chance to chat with businesses, and it’s building out other features, like payments or the ability to hail a ride through Uber.