Facebook Inc.’s WhatsApp messaging service is to drop its annual $0.99 subscription fee. Instead it will test ways to monetize its nearly 1 billion customers by allowing businesses to communicate with WhatsApp users as an alternative to introducing third-party ads.

WhatsApp Inc. will remove the fees from different versions of its app over the coming weeks because many users who don’t have a debit or credit card are concerned about losing access to their contacts after a free trial period, the company said Monday in a blog post.

“Starting this year, we will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from,” WhatsApp said. “That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight.”

Facebook bought WhatsApp for about $22 billion in 2014 as Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, the world’s 8th-richest person according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, sought to increase the company’s reach across wireless devices.

This article was written by Stefan Nicola from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.



Photo Credit: WhatsApp and Facebook app icons on an iPhone in New York. Karly Domb Sadof / Associated Press