WhatsApp, owned by Facebook, has launched a new, free, separate application to help businesses deal with and respond to customer inquiries. The application is currently only available on Android within the United States, Britain, Mexico, Indonesia, and Italy. The business app is aimed at businesses who currently use WhatsApp to communicate directly with customers and will allow them to create a business profile, set up automatic responses and provide them with statistics about the number of messages read, delivered, and sent.
Over time, the currently free application is expected to begin to charge businesses for using it. WhatsApp was bought by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion, with WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg deciding shortly after that the original messaging system should remain advertising free. Although WhatsApp temporarily experimented with a $1 a year subscription, the fee was discontinued in 2016 and the application in its current state has no source of revenue. WhatsApp is in a highly competitive market that considers WeChat and Facebook's own Messenger as competitors among many others worldwide. WhatsApp has expressed plans to release its new business app in other markets and on iOS soon.
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