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WhatsApp to offer companies a direct line to your phone in major change of tack for messaging service

Mirror logo Mirror 12/10/2017 Jeff Parsons

WhatsApp is launching a new version of its hugely popular messaging app that will allow businesses to chat directly to customers.

Dubbed WhatsApp Business, the new app has been designed as a way to monetise the instant messaging service, which was acquired by Facebook back in 2014 for around $19 billion.

The idea is that it will make it easier for businesses to reach customers who are already familiar with using the app to talk to their friends.

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But WhatsApp will be able to charge businesses for the privilege.

“We want to put a basic foundation in place to allow people to message businesses and for them to get the responses that they want," WhatsApp COO Matt Idema earlier this year.

“We do intend on charging businesses in the future.”

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The new WhatsApp Business app will be almost identical to the standard version of the app with a couple of small changes.

Landline numbers will be supported for the first time and the app can also be hosted through businesses' websites as an official chat tool.

Because it will operate as a standalone app, it will enable users to keep their personal and business conversations separate.

There will also be options for businesses to add customisations to their WhatsApp profile, including webpage address and opening hours. They will also be able to send automated responses when customers contact them outside of business hours.

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With over one billion daily active users, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging platform in the world.

The app used to charge users 99p a year, but the messaging service went free at the beginning of 2016.

Facebook also has a similar business-focused version of its site called .

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