TL;DR – Yes, it looks like it.
Companies follow customers on to new platforms. And there is arguably no bigger, and more prominent platform in 2018 than Whatsapp. With 1.6 billion customers, over 450 million daily users and none of the scandals of its parents’ company, Whatsapp’s sleek style, and layout has made it a hit with almost every single demographic, regardless of age, gender, location or language.
This makes Whatsapp an advertiser’s wet dream, to position yourself right in front of your customer, delivering timely relevant updates and information. You might think this is exactly like Social Media, but this discounts a massive development in the tech word: Messaging is now bigger than Social Media.
So will Whatsapp follow in the steps of Messenger and Instagram’s Direct, and release its API’s so companies can build bots on its platform?
So there’s good news and bad news on that front.
The bad news is that there’s no integration for a chatbot with Whatsapp at the moment, Whatsapp hasn’t released an API with which companies or individuals can build a bot.
The good news is that this may not be the case forever.
As more and more people head over to messaging as opposed to social media, Facebook and its owned entities have to keep up with the trend. That’s one of the primary drivers behind Facebook splitting it’s in core app into Facebook and Messenger. Instagram too, joined this train of thought, in late 2017 Instagram rolled out ‘Direct’, a sort-of Messenger for the Instagram platform.
So is a Whatsapp Chatbot the next logical step?
It wasn’t, right until May 1st, 2018, when this headline broke.
Whatsapp has seen a major C Level corporate change this year. WhatsApp CEO and co-founder Jan Koum, the company’s CEO quit in May, over disagreements about what the future of the platform was.
Koum famously promised to keep WhatsApp ad-free, though the app is owned by Facebook, one of the world’s biggest advertising companies.
And with Koum bidding farewell, Whatsapp lost one of its staunchest internal advocates for user privacy, amid a broader crisis of trust over Facebook’s treatment of personal data.
Probably not the worlds greatest bet.
If we’re being honest, Jan Koum stepping down isn’t too much of a surprise.
In September 2017, Koum’s Whatsapp co-founder, Brian Acton, left the company as well. When Facebook was hit with the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Acton he seemingly piled on the “#deletefacebook” wagon and was one of the most startling people to side against the social network, posting to Twitter in March:
“It is time. #deletefacebook.”
Jan Koum reportedly frequently bashed heads with Facebook over WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption, which ensures that messages can’t be intercepted and read by anyone outside of the conversation, including by WhatsApp or Facebook, hampering any potential for data collection and thereby advertisements.
Which should make what happened right after Koum stepped down not surprising at all.
Facebook Messaging head David Marcus announced that WhatsApp will be ‘more open’ to advertisers.
Whatsapp over the past year has released a slew of new features, seemingly distancing itself from the original idea of a ‘light messenger’. Certain updates are competition oriented, like better “group features” to ward off Telegram, and a Snapchat style 24-hour status-update, while others are to better integrate Whatsapp into the Facebook ecosystem.
Don’t be fooled though, every one of these updates is an effort to bring Whatsapp more in line with Facebook’s business model.
Some updates, however, are explicitly launched to help users ease into working with businesses on the platform. As early as April last year, Facebook considered peer-to-peer payments on Whatsapp. By January 2018, they launched a beta, with Facebook employees being the first test subjects.
WILL WE SEE A WHATSAPP CHATBOT SOON?
Most notably, however, Whatsapp launched Whatsapp Business, a sort-of beta test run of bots on the platform, complete with quick replies, analytics, and automated messages.
None of this shows any sign of slowing down. After Koum stepped down, Facebook appointed Chris Daniels, the guy who’s been running Internet.org as Whatsapp’s new head.
In his new role, Daniels will report to Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox. Daniels’s new job is just one of many new roles handed out at the company, where Facebook underwent what was arguably it’s largest organizational restructuring in history.
Post handing out their API’s to companies and allowing companies to create bots and certified business, Facebook plans to create a revenue stream for Whatsapp, by charging businesses to talk to customers on the messaging service.