SAN FRANCISCO: WhatsApp, the messaging service owned by Facebook, is reportedly testing a system that would allow businesses to talk directly to its one billion users.
According to communications about the project seen by Reuters, tests have begun with a handful of companies that are part of the Y Combinator start-up incubator. Airbnb and Dropbox are former associates of Y Combinator.
Reuters reported that WhatsApp, which has not yet developed a business model since Facebook's $19bn acquisition in 2014, is examining whether to charge businesses that want to contact customers on the platform.
Examples might include allowing users to speak to their bank about a transaction on the app, or to an airline about a delayed flight. However, the documents suggest that WhatsApp is wary about its users having to put up with spam messages.
Although Sam Altman, President of Y Combinator, said he was not aware of the WhatsApp test, one of the start-ups involved with Y Combinator, said the trial is in the early stages.
Umer Ilyas, Co-Founder of Cowlar, which makes collars for dairy cows to collect data and improve milk yield, said the system is highly anticipated in remote areas where WhatsApp is especially popular.
Parent company Facebook has also been busy on the technical front and last week announced the launch of a new feature for its Messenger app that is expected to challenge Snapchat Stories.
Stan Chudnovsky, Head of Product for Messenger, explained in a blog post that the new Messenger Day will be rolled out globally on Android and iOS, allowing users to share photos and videos as they happen before they disappear after 24 hours.
"Of course it's up to you if you want to share your day with everyone you talk to in Messenger or just your closest friends and family," he wrote.
Data sourced from Reuters, Facebook; additional content by Warc staff