WhatsApp has temporarily retreated on ads because Mark Zuckerberg feared backlash

Much to the dismay of its users, WhatsApp was supposed to shove advertisements into the messaging software at the start of 2020. According to a new report, Mark Zuckerberg has temporarily changed his mind about that out of fear of angering regulators and WhatsApp fans.

The Information has the story today:

After more than a year of preparation, WhatsApp was finally close to flipping the switch on advertising, kick-starting a plan to generate billions of dollars a year in revenue from one of Facebook’s crown jewels, which it had acquired for $22 billion six years earlier.

Billions of dollars per annum from ads in… a messaging app? You bet, assuming that app is WhatsApp, the most widely-used messaging software in the world with more than two billion users. I mean, look no further than Instagram — before it was acquired by Facebook, Instagram had no ads. Now almost every other post in everyone’s feed is an ad, and that stinks.

Last fall, employees prepared to share details of the planned 2020 rollout at an internal sales gathering in Singapore. But after meeting with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ahead of the event, Will Cathcart, the new head of WhatsApp, relayed to staffers that the plan to implement ads had been shelved. Employees who had already booked their flights for the sales conference canceled their trips.

So there’s someone sane in the house after all.

Zuckerberg suspended the push to introduce ads to the  messaging app partly because Facebook wanted to avoid antagonizing regulators, according to people familiar with the matter. Facebook also feared angering WhatsApp users who valued the app’s emphasis on privacy and who resisted the idea of having their accounts tied to Facebook.

But don’t you start celebrating just yet — Facebook still expects to eventually bring ads to WhatsApp after “completing the multiyear effort to link all its social platforms.”

I truly hope people will start abandoning WhatsApp after it starts shoving ads down our throat because no one likes to be interrupted by promotional messages while chatting.