Facebook Might Consider Business-to-Consumer Chat for WhatsApp

Facebook Inc. said it may allow businesses to contact users through WhatsApp, the first hint of how the social network might make money from the messaging service it bought last year.

WhatsApp may use some functions that are being tested with Facebook Messenger, for example, business-to-consumer interaction that marketers could pay for.

“We think that enabling that B2C messaging has good business potential for us,” David Wehner, Facebook’s chief financial officer, said at a JPMorgan technology conference Monday in Boston. “As we learn those things, I think there’s going to be opportunities to bring some of those things to WhatsApp, but that’s more longer-term than the near-term.”

Facebook, which acquired WhatsApp for $22 billion, has declined to say how it might make money from the property. The app’s founders have been critical about incorporating ads and games. WhatsApp has 800 million users, approaching the 1 billion that Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has said is the level at which WhatsApp could start to become a meaningful business.

WhatsApp is especially popular with people as an alternative to traditional texting to avoid international cellular data charges. Messenger is more of a multiuser chat product, to which Facebook has introduced some e-commerce services and game functions.

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