More than eight years after agreeing to buy one of the world’s largest messaging apps, the company, formerly known as Facebook, decided to start making money on it.

WhatsApp, a popular messaging service owned by Meta, the parent company of Facebook, said Thursday that it is opening commercial services for those who want to use the messaging app to grow their business. This was WhatsApp’s biggest step towards making money on a service used by more than a billion people worldwide.

The new initiative allows business owners to access the WhatsApp Cloud Application Programming Interface, a way to create a dashboard above WhatsApp software so they can communicate with customers and more easily offer customer service.

“This is an important step to help more businesses connect with people and help more people communicate to businesses they want to support – big and small,” said Mark Zuckerberg, Meta’s CEO, at the event announcing the new service.

WhatsApp plans to charge users depending on the number of calls to customers per day, from a fraction of a cent to more than 10 cents per call, depending on the region. It also plans to offer a free level with limited services for small businesses.

This move is the strongest signal for Meta that it wants to start earning significant revenue from WhatsApp, especially since it is facing business challenges on several fronts. Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014 for $ 22 billion, making it the company’s most expensive acquisition. For years, WhatsApp was free to use, and managing and supporting Meta cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Now making more money has become paramount. Meta’s advertising business has suffered from Apple’s changes to the iPhone operating system, and the company has lost tens of millions of users in Russia after the country’s ban. The war in Ukraine also disrupted some Meta advertising operations.

In addition, Meta is driven by a challenging transition to become a “metaworld” company that provides people with exciting digital experiences. In February, a quarter of the company’s market value was destroyed – more than $ 230 billion – after a sad profit report.

WhatsApp has historically not dared to make money on its service. The company’s founders abandoned advertising in the app, and after embarking on the idea of ​​charging each user $ 1 a year for using the service, Facebook executives abandoned the idea as too anemic and difficult to scale.

By 2018, the founders of WhatsApp are out the door. Mr. Zuckerberg has announced a plan to connect all messaging services in the applications he owns – WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. The company has made changes that have allowed Facebook to get more information about how people use WhatsApp. WhatsApp claims that none of these changes were used to track advertising.

At the same time, WhatsApp coverage continued to spread around the world, reaching millions of users in Brazil and South America, as well as the Middle East and much of the European Union.

Many included small and medium-sized businesses that used WhatsApp for free to communicate with customers. But the experience, according to WhatsApp, was awkward and sometimes difficult to navigate and was not designed with business services in mind.

The new WhatsApp product should address such issues and make it easier for these businesses to communicate with their customers through the app. Cloud storage hosting will also be provided to businesses that pay for the Cloud API.

Mr Zuckerberg said more than a billion WhatsApp users connect with companies each week through a messaging service, and that the new product will make things easier for businesses and customers.

“Today, most of us use our tapes to discover interesting content and stay up to date,” Mr. Zuckerberg said at the event. “But for deeper levels of engagement, messaging has become the center of our digital lives.”

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