On Saturday, WhatsApp will finally start forcing users to agree to its controversial new terms of service, nearly half a year after it first announced its plans to do so.
Despite immediate user reaction, millions of subscriptions to rival messaging companies, and even questions asked in the House of Commons, WhatsApp has gone ahead with the new rules. The company says the actual changes are small and that the wave of user panic in January was driven more by misinformation spread, ironically, on WhatsApp itself than reasonable concerns.
But, analysts say, acceptance of the rules is crucial if Facebook is to achieve its goal since it bought WhatsApp for $ 19 billion in 2014: turning the service into the Western equivalent of WeChat, an “everything app” where users they can’t just chat. with friends and family, but also order pizza, pay utility bills, and contact essential government services.
Despite the fury of some users, it seems that the plan could be successful. Just under one in four users know that the app plans to change its terms and conditions, despite the fact that 95% of Britons use WhatsApp, according to statistics from global research platform Appinio. Even fewer, less than 15%, say they no longer “want” to use WhatsApp due to the planned changes, and history suggests that many of them will stay in the app anyway.
The fight dates back to October 2020, when WhatsApp first announced its plans to update the app. A new set of features would allow small businesses to upload their catalogs directly to the app, allowing any WhatsApp user to message a business, browse its products, and complete a purchase, all without leaving WhatsApp.
The purpose of the changes was clear, says CCS Insight analyst Martin Garner. “Facebook has ambitious plans to expand its messaging services to achieve what Tencent has done in China with WeChat, where people interact with businesses and stores, as well as pay for goods and services using the messaging application.
“WeChat also has its own applets and games, and it has become an essential part of the fabric of everyday life there. Reaching this position would be a great reward for Facebook. “
But when the switch was pushed to users in January, there was panic, eventually leading to millions of new sign-ups for competing services like Signal and Telegram, as well as questions in the House of Commons, ultimately forcing a three month delay. in the plans.
Yet despite that, Daniel O’Connell, research vice president at analyst Gartner, predicts the company’s success. “The success of the WhatsApp Business API further differentiates WhatsApp from competitive offerings, making WhatsApp even more valuable, ubiquitous and difficult to replace. Rival WeChat has proven the value of commercial use of messaging apps.
“Obviously, WhatsApp has the baggage of being owned by Facebook and the possible misuse (real and perceived) of the information by Facebook. But WhatsApp is ubiquitous, cheap, practical, and intuitive. Therefore, the vast majority of smartphone users ages five to 95, from cradle to grave, use WhatsApp routinely. “
The company has announced that users who refuse to accept the new terms of service will slowly lose access to WhatsApp entirely. As of Saturday, they will not be able to close the screen asking them to accept the new terms, although they will still be able to receive phone calls and respond to messages through notifications. However, over time, even that will be disabled, leaving users with no choice but to accept the new rules or delete their accounts entirely.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism