WhatsApp is planning to introduce free cloud-based API services in a push to get more business using the app.
Meta Platforms’ CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed these plans during the company’s ‘Conversations’ event on Thursday. WhatsApp is continuing to push into the business market with these plans of launching a WhatsApp Cloud API to all businesses worldwide.
Introduced into beta testing last November, the new developer tool is a cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business API – WhatsApp’s first revenue-generating enterprise product – but hosted on parent company Meta’s infrastructure.
The messaging service, which has increasingly courted business users, is one of several platforms where Facebook-owner Meta has launched more shopping and business-focused features.
Zuckerberg, speaking at Meta’s “Conversations” event, said the offering would mean “any business or developer can easily access our service, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience and speed up their response time to customers by using our secure WhatsApp Cloud API hosted by Meta.”
The app already has an API, or type of software interface, for businesses to connect their systems and engage in customer service chats on the service, which generates some revenue for Meta.
In addition to helping businesses and developers get set up faster than with the on-premise version, Meta says the Cloud API will help partners to eliminate costly server expenses and help them provide customers with quick access to new features as they arrive.
Meta, which bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in a landmark 2014 deal, said that businesses would not be able to message people on WhatsApp unless they have requested to be contacted.
WhatsApp also said on Thursday it was planning to provide optional paid features as part of a new premium service for users of its specialized business app, which is geared at small businesses.
Those features, which are still being developed, will include options to manage chats across up to 10 devices and customized click-to-chat links that businesses can post on their websites and share with customers.
Some businesses may choose to forgo the API and use the dedicated WhatsApp Business app instead. Launched in 2018, the WhatsApp Business App is aimed at smaller businesses that want to establish an official presence on WhatsApp’s service and connect with customers. It provides a set of features that wouldn’t be available to users of the free WhatsApp messaging app, like support automated quick replies, greeting messages, FAQs, away messaging, statistics and more.