WhatsApp, the messaging program that the world loves and Facebook’s newest acquisition, makes money in a very simple way: you have to pay a small amount of money per year to use it. For that, you get no ads. There are other messaging apps in the world, though, and in some regions those programs are even more popular than WhatsApp. How do they earn money?
This isn’t an idle question: these are also potential business models WhatsApp might follow to earn its keep in the future. For example, Line, a Japan-based messaging service popular in parts of Asia, uses two revenue streams that should be familiar to longtime Facebook users: virtual gifts bought with real money. Line also has games that users can play on a freemium model: that is, free to play, but with additional goodies you can exchange cash money for. South Korea’s Kakao Talk uses a similar model, especially the games.
In China, WeChat is the local messaging app of choice. It just added payment options last year, and makes money through games.
All of these competitors are free to download and use. Is having a simple chat app worth a buck or more a year to WhatsApp users? Facebook will find out in the coming years.
How Messaging Apps Make Money [Wall Street Journal]