WhatsApp is now free and promises to stay ad-free

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WhatsApp is dropping its subscription fees to access the popular messaging service. WhatsApp introduced the fees a few years ago, forcing new users to pay an annual 99 cents subscription after the first year. “As we’ve grown, we’ve found that this approach hasn’t worked well,” admits WhatsApp in a company blog post today.

“Many WhatsApp users don’t have a debit or credit card number and they worried they’d lose access to their friends and family after their first year. So over the next several weeks, we’ll remove fees from the different versions of our app and WhatsApp will no longer charge you for our service.”

If you’ve been using WhatsApp for the six years it has been available then you’ve probably never experienced the subscription fees. Most original users were granted a free lifetime service, but in recent years the company introduced its subscription to new users. Recode reports that if you’ve already paid the 99 cents for the year then there won’t be a refund, but subscription fees will cease immediately.

WhatsApp now has nearly 1 billion users, so the free timing removes the barrier for millions more to join the messaging service. The Facebook-owned service plans appears to be planning to generate revenue through services to businesses. “We will test tools that allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from.” That means you might be able to send WhatsApp messages to your bank or airlines in the future. WhatsApp isn’t planning to enable third-party ads within the service, and it’s sticking to its original principles. The founders of WhatsApp were strongly opposed to ads, noting back in 2012 that “when advertising is involved you the user are the product.”

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WhatsApp Down: People worldwide unable to connect to the app on NYE!

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Update: The service seems to be back, iOS and Android users should have no issues using WhatsApp. If you’re still facing the issue try to close WhatsApp completely or restarting your phone should solve the problem. 

If you are wondering whether WhatsApp is down or you are facing issues connecting to your favourite messaging service, you are not alone. Several users across the world are reporting issues connecting to WhatsAp on New Year’s Eve, and the Facebook-owned service has acknowledged the issue.

“Some people have had trouble accessing WhatsApp for a short period today. We’re working to restore service back to 100% for everyone and we apologise for the inconvenience,”

Earlier, many users took to Twitter to complaint that WhatsApp is down, while others reported connectivity issues. The messaging and voice calling client seemed to be having issues sending and receiving messages on both Android and iOS. DownDetector, a realtime services outage monitor, also reported multiple issues.

Around 10pmIST on Thursday, several users started to note that they weren’t being able to send or receieve messages or make calls via WhatsApp. It is not known what caused the problems, though it could just be a massive spike in traffic on New Year’s Eve, traditionally a day of record traffic for the app. The WhatsApp Status Twitter handle has so far been silent on the downtime.

It is worth noting that not everyone is facing the issue, though those who’re on the receiving end aren’t too pleased about it. “I feel sorry for the other poor souls,” Khamosh Pathak.

WhatsApp announced in September that it had reached the 900 million monthly active users milestone. It is the world’s most widely used instant messaging client.

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Facebook explains why it enabled Safety Check for Paris but not other recent attacks

  In the immediate aftermath of the Paris attacks on Friday, many with loved ones living in the city received a new type of notification from Facebook. The social network activated a relatively new tool called Safety Check for the attacks, letting people in Paris easily tell their friends and that they were safe.
While the feature has been helpful for many, some pointed to its use in Paris but not for other recent attacks — like a twin suicide bombing that killed over 40 in Beiruit on Thursday — as yet another example of western bias that apparently values certain lives more than others.

On Saturday, Facebook saw fit to respond to those accusations in a blog post written by the company’s vice president of growth, Alex Schultz. In it, Schultz notes that this is the first time the company has enabled Safety Check for anything other than a natural disaster, events which the tool was originally designed for when it was released last year.

Like a natural disaster, he notes, during the attacks “Facebook became a place where people were sharing information and looking to understand the condition of their loved ones.” After discussing with Facebook employees on the ground, the company decided it was a good idea to turn on Safety Check. “There has to be a first time for trying something new, even in complex and sensitive times, and for us that was Paris.”

Now that Facebook has set a precedent for using Safety Check for terrorism and other violent events, it will need to figure out when and where to use the feature. From Schultz’s comments, it’s not clear if the team would have enabled it for Beruit. He includes the Lebanese city among “other parts of the world, where violence is more common and terrible things happen with distressing frequency. ” And he notes that “During an ongoing crisis, like war or epidemic, Safety Check in its current form is not that useful for people: because there isn’t a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it’s impossible to know when someone is truly ‘safe.'”

That said, Schultz writes that “We want this tool to be available whenever and wherever it can help,” adding, “We will learn a lot from feedback on this launch.”

New Whatsapp Features for iPhone and Android!

Whatsapp Bookmark iOS

WhatsApp, the popular Facebook-owned messaging service, has started rolling out a new ‘Starred Messages’ feature for iOS users in the form of an app update. The feature aims to let users quickly access bookmarked messages including images, videos, or other content quickly.

WhatsApp users would now be able to ‘Star’ a message using tap and hold gesture. The message would then be saved in a separate new ‘Starred Messages’ tab. The feature is also available for WhatsApp Groups.

Starred Messages has been seeded to iOS users in the app version 2.12.7 and is likely to reach Androidand Windows Phone soon. The updated app is available to download form the App Store.

The more we rely on our smartphones for every facet of our lives, the more risk there is of losing important data if your phone gets lost, stolen or destroyed. Android already has some backup services built in, but the massively popular chat client WhatsApp has just announced a partnership with Google to make sure its 900 million users don’t lose anything important to them. Starting today, WhatsApp users on Android will have the option to back up their entire WhatsApp history right to Google Drive. The backup will include chat histories, voice messages, photos and video, and you’ll be able to restore all of that data to a new phone when you set up WhatsApp.

Unfortunately, as with many new Google features, this one will be coming by the ever-popular gradual rollout. This is a particularly long one — Google says the feature will become available over the next few months. Once it’s available, you’ll find the option in WhatsApp’s settings. Why it’ll take so long isn’t clear, so you’ll have to just start checking your app periodically if you want to take advantage of the new feature.

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