Whatsapp: ‘Why we don’t sell ads’

Whatsapp on why they don't sell apps

This is why Whatsapp charges instead of selling ads. A sound argument too. Fact is, when the service is as reliable as what Whatsapp offers, people are more than willing to pay for it. The following is taken from the Whatsapp blog (emphasis mine):

Brian and I spent a combined 20 years at Yahoo, working hard to keep the site working. And yes, working hard to sell ads, because that’s what Yahoo did. It gathered data and it served pages and it sold ads.

We watched Yahoo get eclipsed in size and reach by Google… a more efficient and more profitable ad seller. They knew what you were searching for, so they could gather your data more efficiently and sell better ads.

These days companies know literally everything about you, your friends, your interests, and they use it all to sell ads.

When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads.

No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow. We know people go to sleep excited about who they chatted with that day (and disappointed about who they didn’t). We want WhatsApp to be the product that keeps you awake… and that you reach for in the morning. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an advertisement.

Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out… And at the end of the day the result of it all is a slightly different advertising banner in your browser or on your mobile screen.

Remember, when advertising is involved you the user are the product.

At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.

When people ask us why we charge for WhatsApp, we say “Have you considered the alternative?”

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So Facebook bought Instagram..

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It’s old news now. Instagram is being bought over by Facebook for US$1 billion.

Instagram was the one app that, when it was only available on iPhone, I was jealous of my iPhone-using friends for. Needless to say, when it became available on Android, I joined the million who installed it on the first day.

Instagram’s draw for me emanated from the sharing platform, more than the camera itself. There are various apps (on both Android and iOS platforms) that surpass the Instagram camera, but none come even close to the simple, effective sharing interface.

While looking through the many beautiful photos on Instagram, it seemed me that there were many Instagram users who were unhappy that the owners of Instagram decided to accept Facebook’s offer. ‘You guys sold us out’ looked to be the echoing sentiment in that camp.

What.. Why?! I remember asking myself. I thought it was high time the makers of Instagram got the recognition that they deserved. After all, its beginnings were humble, and look where they are at now. Millions of photographers, many professional, have come together to share photos. It may be a stretch to say that the Instagram people have done photographers a service, but that is what I sincerely feel.

Now I see some Instagrammers complaining that Instagram is going to be ‘mainstream’ now. Well guess what, it has been mainstream for a good long time. Almost every iPhone user I know has it on their device, and we all know a good handful of iPhone users who are no different, I’m sure. If you need verification that there is conformity in deviance, look no further.

It is difficult to give up the feeling of ownership that one might have from being an early adopter, but this is a reality. Hell, would they turn down a offer that big from an investor that has a track record as good as Facebook’s?

On a side note, Facebook has assured users that Instagram will remain largely the same. Only the user pool, and consequently the photo pool, will increase. That’s good, no?