Meta eyes profits with new WhatsApp platform for businesses

Got a question for a certain company? Meta thinks you'll soon be turning to WhatsApp to get automated answers from business chatbots. — dpa

Facebook parent company Meta is taking its biggest step yet towards making money with WhatsApp with a new platform that allows users to message businesses.

In a move that potentially could fundamentally change how customer service takes place, the chat app is opening up the platform to any business that wants to let customers reach them on WhatsApp.

“The best business experiences meet people where they are and that’s WhatsApp,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said, making it clear at the announcement in May that the offer was intended to appeal to both small and large companies.

WhatsApp says businesses can use the service to “build systems that connect thousands of customers with agents or bots”. That means anyone on WhatsApp can expect to see more and more businesses giving information on their services with automated responses through chat, while customer service agents can also use it to respond to queries.

Ahead of its shift towards a new business model, WhatsApp sparked much criticism last year when it changed its terms of use to make way for this new service. Critics said that more data from the chat service would be shared between Meta companies Facebook and Instagram.

The company always stressed that the privacy changes were only about creating a framework for communication between companies and their customers.

The Facebook group bought WhatsApp in 2014 for around US$22bil (RM96.26bil) in the end. Before that, WhatsApp lived on the fee of US$1 (RM4.38) per year. After the takeover, Facebook struggled to establish a new business model for the service.

Meta hopes the new business service will give WhatsApp an edge over its increasingly popular rivals Signal and Telegram, which have won over WhatsApp’s two billion users with, respectively, a focus on privacy and publicly available channels.

Meta has meanwhile faced repeated calls from lawmakers around the world that WhatsApp be broken up from Meta’s Facebook and Instagram social media platforms to ensure more competition for chat services. – dpa

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