>> Facebook's popular messaging app WhatsApp is looking to make money and it's moving in on business users. On Thursday, WhatsApp said it was launching business accounts for the first time. A free service for now. Reuters tech correspondent, David Ingram.>> Around the world, a lot of businesses are already using WhatsApp informally, to talk to customers.
And so, WhatsApp now wants to make it easier for businesses to handle large volumes of inquiries from customers. And so, WhatsApp is looking for some kind of way to make money. They are planning to sort of use this as a first step to strengthen the WhatsApp relationship with businesses.
>> WhatsApp, a pun on What's up, was bought by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion. It used to cost $1 a year to use it but that fee was dropped in 2016 and the company and Facebook don't want ads to clutter it, raising the challenges of making money from such a huge userbase.
>> WhatsApp is really popular because it's free, because it's encrypted, because it doesn't require a lot of data. The challenge is going to be to keep users on it, make sure that there's no spam from businesses. Businesses are still not allowed to spam customers and to give, and solicit them without permission.
>> WhatsApp also faces stiff competition in a world increasingly cluttered with messaging apps like Facebook's own messenger, popular Chinese app by Tencent called WeChat, encrypted messaging app Signal, and others. The business app will be available in Google Play in a handful of countries, including the US from Thursday, and will be rolled out wider in coming weeks.
Apple users will have to wait, the iPhone version of the app hasn't landed quite yet.