Thursday, 27 September 2018 08:18

Little new in WhatsApp co-founder's first interview after Facebook split

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Little new in WhatsApp co-founder's first interview after Facebook split Pixabay

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton has spoken publicly for the first time since quitting Facebook — which acquired the encrypted messaging app for US$22 billion in 2014 — but apart from some intricate detail, has revealed nothing apart from what emerged when the news of his leaving the social media giant broke in June.

Acton spoke to Forbes, outlining many minor details of what had resulted in the split with Facebook, when he and his fellow co-founder Jan Koum walked out, despite having to give up big sums to do so.

The WhatsApp founders departure was detailed by The Wall Street Journal. At that time itself, it was made clear that the overriding factor that led to the schism was because Facebook's business model revolved around selling advertising, while Acton was a strong privacy advocate.

In the Forbes interview, Acton said he had suggested a user-pays model after a certain number of messages had been sent, with perhaps a tenth of a penny being charged after a large number of free messages.

As he described it, "You build it once, it runs everywhere in every country. You don’t need a sophisticated sales force. It’s a very simple business.”

But the plan was shot down by Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg who said it would not scale.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg had decided to show targeted ads in WhatsApp's new Status feature which Acton felt broke a social compact with users.

Zuckerberg also wanted to sell business tools to allow companies to interact with users; once the companies had joined, he hoped to sell analytics tools. But the end-to-end encryption within WhatsApp would get in the way of using such tools.

When Sandberg was asked earlier this month by US politicians whether WhatsApp still used end-to-end encryption, she responded: "We are strong believers in encryption", raising doubts about the future of WhatsApp.

A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed the placing of ads in the Status feature from next year but insisted that the end-to-end encryption feature would remain.

In August, Facebook increased the functionality of the WhatsApp Business app that it had been testing for a few months, allowing companies to send messages to customers through the app.

The Forbes feature provides plenty of background and is well worth a read.


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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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