WhatsApp to launch dedicated chat apps for businesses

The app for SMBs will be free, while another fee-based app is in the works for larger enterprises.

Facebook-owned messaging platform WhatsApp is testing new features for businesses that would allow them to chat with customers more officially.

The messaging service revealed last week that it has started placing green badges next to a business contact, indicating that the business is legit and verified by WhatsApp. Eventually, WhatsApp plans to use the verification component as part of a dedicated customer service app for businesses called WhatsApp Business.

"We're building and testing new tools via a free WhatsApp Business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies operating at a large scale with a global base of customers, like airlines, e-commerce sites, and banks," WhatsApp wrote in a blog post Tuesday.

The company didn't provide further details about additional features and availability of the new apps, but it did reveal to the Wall Street Journal that a fee-based structure is in the works for larger enterprises.

"We do intend on charging businesses in the future," WhatsApp COO Matt Idema told the WSJ. "We don't have the details of monetization figured out."

Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for roughly $16 billion, and since then, usage of the messaging platform has skyrocketed to more than 1 billion daily active users. But in terms of revenue, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said it's "still early on the monetization side" for WhatsApp.

Current speculation suggests that Facebook will use ads as part of the WhatsApp Business monetization system, but nothing is official at this point.

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