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[SAN FRANCISCO] Mobile messaging service WhatsApp, owned by Facebook Inc, said it will no longer charge annual subscription fees and plans to test tools to allow users to communicate directly with businesses and organizations via the app.
WhatsApp, which has 900 million users worldwide and works across different types of phones, said it does not plan to launch third-party advertising to generate revenue.
It only charges an annual subscription fee of 99 US cents or the equivalent, which is waived for the first year, and said it would end its subscription fees over the next several weeks.
It will test tools that allow users to communicate with businesses and organizations on WhatsApp, rather than through text messages and phone calls.
"That could mean communicating with your bank about whether a recent transaction was fraudulent, or with an airline about a delayed flight," WhatsApp said on its blog on Monday.
WhatsApp was one of the first apps to let people send and receive text messages on smartphones, bypassing network charges, making it increasingly popular among younger users. It is facing growing competition from messaging app services offered by Google among others.