In a completely unexpected move, Facebook decided not to ruin WhatsApp for the time being. Facebook warned users back in the fall of 2018 that ads would be deployed inside WhatsApp, prompting some people to worry about the relationship between ads and end-to-end encryption. Facebook then reminded us, a few months later, that ads will start appearing in the popular chat app in 2020. But it turns out that Facebook has completely abandoned the idea of deploying advertising inside your chats for the time being.
WhatsApp disbanded the team responsible for ads integration, people familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal. Moreover, the ad-related code was deleted from the app, which is great news for anyone who has preemptively annoyed at the prospect of seeing ads in the WhatsApp status bar.
Facebook wasn’t going to break end-to-end encryption to deliver highly-targeted ads, the company said almost two years ago. WhatsApp would have remained just as secure as it is today (at least in theory). Not to mention that, more recently, Mark Zuckerberg pivoted towards end-to-end encryption for all of Facebook’s instant messaging apps, which should be linked at some point in the future.
The report notes that Facebook hasn’t canned the idea of monetizing WhatsApp with ads, but it’s no longer a priority, and it’s unclear when it will happen. Instead, Facebook plans to make money from the WhatsApp instant chat features it can offer businesses. Customer service features, as well as actual commerce, can be done via WhatsApp, which both users and retailers may appreciate in a world that’s increasingly reliant on instant messaging.
The Journal also notes a second reason why Facebook may have canceled the ads project: The current WhatsApp terms of service, updated in 2016, after the Facebook purchase, but before WhatsApp cofounders left the company — Jan Koum and Brian Acton departed Facebook after clashes on advertising — prohibit ads in the app. Facebook would have to update those terms and face backlash from the public. Changing the terms of service quietly might not be an option for a company that’s had to deal with several PR issues in the past few years.