The CEO of Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Jan Koum, unveiled some big news about the online messaging service today. But as the company nears 1 billion users worldwide, it now will be completely free service. The $0.99 annual subscription fee is set to become a thing of the past. As someone who regularly covers festivals, I have to say it’s one of the most reliable ways to communicate in low wi-fi/service areas.

“We’re going to get rid of the $1 subscription,” Koum said, later admitting that the backup business model — courting corporates to build B2C services — is still pretty nascent. “We haven’t written a single line of code, [but we want to] make sure people understand this is not about ads in the product,” he said.

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TechCrunch Reports:

The B2C business is in a testing phase now, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum said, with the focus on large corporate customers like Bank of America.

The subscription fee — which used to kick in after a year of free use — may be getting scrapped in favor of alternative revenues. But this won’t include ads, Koum said.

If you recall, when Facebook announced it would acquire WhatsApp for $19 billion almost two years ago, both companies were unequivocal about not putting ads into WhatsApp and sharing user data with commercial entities.

WhatsApp last updated its user numbers — who connect to the service by way of their mobile phone numbers, a hot link in a space where app developers oftentimes don’t “know” their users that well — at 900 million this past September. This profile in Wired notes that today the actual number is around 990 million.

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