New from me on Voce Nation:
There are a couple things that are notable in WhatsApp’s announcement it would dropping the $.99 annual subscription fee:
First, that they saw just this small charge as an impediment to adoption not because it was outrageously high but because too many people lacked the infrastructure to make the payment. That says a lot about what sort of market the app is already in as well as what markets it wants to be part of. A 2014 report showed WhatsApp is a big hit in emerging markets and those are just the kind of populations who may not have traditional payment methods.
Second, in the blog post the company specifically calls out that they’re looking at ways for people “to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.” Sentence structure aside, based on the examples given it’s easy to see they have customer service applications in mind here. And it doesn’t take too much of an intuitive leap to figure it will start charging the businesses that want to offer those kinds of services through WhatsApp for the tools to do so as opposed to charging people to use it to communicate with friends.