Mark Zuckerberg may never finish banging Elon Muskbut the battle is fought in the app store: the race to see who manages to launch the definitive superapp. Elon Musk wants to do it with Twitter, nowand Zuckerberg has been doing it for years on WhatsApp, in such a subtle way that we haven’t even noticed.
While Musk has turned the old Twitter upside down in his attempt to turn the app into a do-it-all app, name and logo change included, WhatsApp has chosen to do it little by little, so that we don’t notice. And it seems to be working, as the transformation to the league of superapps is increasingly evident.
What is a super app
A term that has become fashionable lately is superapp, after Elon Musk has shown his intention to turn Twitter into precisely that. The term is not exactly new and basically defines applications that They serve everything and become an ecosystem in themselves.
In Asia there are several examples, with giants like WeChat or Grab that accumulate a large number of services inside (especially the first one). WeChat is fundamentally a chat app, but inside it includes “applets” for everything. Its payment service, WeChat Pay, is used to pay the electricity bill and to buy in stores or online.
In Europe The closest thing we have to superapps is the Google or Apple ecosystemsalthough both are lame precisely in the messaging part, where Google does not find the key and Apple does not prevail with its iMessage almost nowhere outside the home.
For Musk and Zuckerberg, transmuting their messaging apps has clear advantages: messaging apps barely make any money, so The more added services are included, the more room there is for monetization. The problem is that a super app needs to be, that is, super, massive, and impose itself above the rest, which means that there is basically only room for one or two clear contenders.
WhatsApp’s long road to becoming a super app
Than Facebook then and Meta now They want to get their hands on WhatsApp It is something that has been evident since They bought the application back in 2014. After all, 19 billion dollars is a lot and they expect a return on investment that is impossible to achieve with subscriptions of less than one euro per year.
In fact, a year after the purchase, WhatsApp eliminated the subscription, officially being a free application. In return, they warned that the app was going to open for business, so we could chat with them. Users don’t pay, but businesses probably do.
By 2017, care services began to arrive timidly through WhatsApp and by next year it was ready WhatsApp Business and its APIthe officialization of WhatsApp’s intentions to be more than a messaging application.
WhatsApp Business has been improving since its launch, allowing businesses to create virtual stores and offer support. Users can, for their part, buy and make transactions without leaving the same application you use to talk with your friends.
With business already in the spotlight, in recent months WhatsApp has been trying to expand the borders of communication, so that let’s get used to chatting with people outside our circles, with increasingly numerous groups, user communities and channels. If WhatsApp wants to be an application for everything, it must also be an application for everyone, not just for interacting with your contacts.
However, the biggest change has come this month with the presentation of the purchase flows and payment methods, a development with which WhatsApp is preparing so that we can carry out all types of transactions, from buying a train ticket to reserving a table at a restaurant or buying carrots.
This and the continuous improvement of the API for companies means that companies increasingly have a more complete toolbox to interact with potential clients through WhatsApp. This is the summary of theWhatsApp’s subtle changes on its way to its superpowers:
- 2009: WhatsApp is launched as an application to have statuses in your iPhone contacts, although the arrival of push notifications soon turns it into a messaging application to chat with your friends and acquaintances, the people you have saved in your contacts book.
- 2016: WhatsApp is no longer paid. Until then, the application requested (and often forgave) an annual subscription of less than 1 euro. That same year, now under the control of Facebook, they announced that the application could be used to talk to businesses.
- 2017: The first bots arrive on WhatsApp with the integrations of the technical service of airlines such as KLM or Aeroméxico, which previously offered the same thing through Facebook Messenger.
- 2018: Facebook launches WhatsApp Business and the WhatsApp Business Platform APIs to connect businesses to WhatsApp. At first, WhatsApp Business is quite similar to regular WhatsApp, focusing on chat messages, a profile for the company and little else.
- 2020: WhatsApp Business improves with the arrival of product catalog that makes it easier to buy things from businesses on WhatsApp. WhatsApp attempts to allow the sending money between users in Brazil (that will bring tail in the following years) and it is also the year in which it is officially announced WhatsApp Paythe payment system.
- 2021: WhatsApp launches a directory of nearby companies that have a profile on WhatsApp Business.
- 2022: Communities arrive as a new way of interacting in larger and not strictly close groups of people. In exchange, phone numbers are kept private, unlike groups. In India, WhatsApp launches a service for buy from JioMart supermarket from the app and to book metro tickets.
- 2023: Channels arrive as a one-way mode of communication and WhatsApp opens up to all types of shopping experiences with the new purchase flows and payment methods.
WhatsApp, the super app, does everything it can
And what is everything that WhatsApp has managed to integrate without us even realizing it? The main characteristic of a superapp is having a large number of users and also features. The first is fulfilled in spades. The second is more true every day:
- Chats between individuals and groups, with calls and video calls.
- Chats outside of our circles with communities and groups with a large number of members.
- News through the channels.
- Send money between individuals.
- Buy from small businesses from WhatsApp, with the product catalog.
- Find companies in the area with a WhatsApp profile, with the business directory.
- Contact the customer service of businesses or entities.
- You shop at supermarkets, like at JioMart.
- Payments from the application itself.
- Book flights, hotels, tickets and more.
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