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Meta to squeeze money from WhatsApp with Cloud API for businesses

How to make a free messaging platform bought for $22 billion profitable

At Meta's first Conversations keynote yesterday, the company announced the WhatsApp Cloud API, aimed at improving the customer service experience for businesses of all sizes.

Meta already has the WhatsApp Business API, the first revenue-generating enterprise product for the otherwise free messaging app, where companies pay WhatsApp on a per-message basis and can use the platform to direct customer communications to other lines like SMS, email, other apps, and more.

It's basically another online presence where enterprises can set up shop to make it easier for customers to get in touch. But the WhatsApp Business API is on-premises and would normally need a solutions provider like Twilio to facilitate back-end integration.

WhatsApp counts big names like Vodafone, Coppel, Sears Mexico, BMW, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Iberia Airlines, Itau Brazil, iFood, and Bank Mandiri among its thousands of enterprise clientele.

The WhatsApp Cloud API is essentially a cloud-based version hosted by Meta and primarily aimed at small businesses, reducing the integration time from weeks to minutes, the company said. Like the Business API, the Cloud API is also free to use.

Opening Conversations, a set of announcements concerning Meta's growing portfolio of messaging properties, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said: "The best business experiences meet people where they are. Already more than 1 billion users connect with a business account across our messaging services every week. They're reaching out for help, to find products and services, and to buy anything from big-ticket items to everyday goods. And today, I am excited to announce that we're opening WhatsApp to any business of any size around the world with WhatsApp Cloud API."

As well as getting businesses set up on the platform faster, Meta said the Cloud API would do away with the server expenses previously needed and offer customers new features as they come online.

For those who don't want to use the API, there is also the WhatsApp Business App, launched in 2018, which provides additional functionality like automated quick replies, greeting messages, FAQs, and so on. Meta said that a Premium service with new features – such as the ability to manage chats across multiple devices – was incoming, with availability and pricing to be revealed at a later date.

Facebook (as was) snapped up WhatsApp in 2014 for a staggering $22 billion, considering that it is a free mobile application without ads that allows users to send unlimited messages to contacts without going through the mobile network or sustaining data fees.

Back then, the service had 450 million users and was losing millions of dollars. It now has more than 2 billion users. This explosive growth is obviously ripe for monetization and the opening up of WhatsApp as a tool for businesses of any size is a sign of how Meta intends to cash in. ®

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