THE LEX COLUMN: Hack undermines WhatsApp selling point
Facebook is plotting ways to turn the messaging service into a payments and advertising business
Facebook has so far asked remarkably little of WhatsApp, its biggest acquisition to date. Revenue generation and experimentation — two of Facebook’s favourite things — are yet to make a real mark. Five years after it paid $19bn for WhatsApp, the simple, secure and free service looks almost the same. Behind the scenes, however, Facebook is plotting ways to turn WhatsApp into a payments and advertising business. A security breach could delay its plans. Until now, Facebook has kept WhatsApp largely in reserve, bulking up user numbers without showing adverts. It has worked. WhatsApp Status, which lets users post photos and videos, has 450-million users. This is more than Instagram Stories, which already carries adverts. Facebook has been cutting back adverts on its news feed to improve user engagement. The plan is to make up that lost revenue via ephemeral adverts in Stories. But rolling out adverts in WhatsApp Status will not compensate immediately. Facebook’s news feed has more than...