Meta launches WhatsApp Cloud API for businesses

New Delhi: Meta chief executive officer (CEO) Mark Zuckerberg said on Thursday that the company is opening WhatsApp to any business of any size around the world with WhatsApp Cloud API.

“In just a few minutes, any business or developer can easily access our service, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience, and speed up their response time to customers by using our secure WhatsApp Cloud API hosted by Meta,” Zuckerberg said while speaking at the Conversations Business Messaging conference and added that more than one billion users connect with a business account across the company’s messaging services every week.

He said messaging has become the ‘center of digital lives, and that the launch of WhatsApp Cloud API is an ‘important step’ to help more businesses connect with people and help more people message the businesses they want to support.

Speaking separately to ET, Matthew Idema, the VP of business messaging at Meta said while the company has had the small business app and it has done very well, the API for larger businesses has been a bit of a ‘cumbersome’ process and has meant companies have had to work with third parties to install, run and maintain services on their own.

“This (WhatsApp Cloud API) makes it very easy for any business that wants to use WhatsApp programmatically to get started in just a few minutes. Developers and entrepreneurs can do it. Development teams at a large company can do it. And it’s quite beneficial for our partners who have helped us work with all the large brands around the world because it means that they no longer need to worry about getting up this software, hosting and running it,” he said.

“We are going to do it for them. And they can then focus on building their tools and services so we are really excited about this for our current customers. We are very excited about this for the developer community to see what they will do with it,” he added.

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Idema also said that the company will add to the capabilities of the free small business app with some premium features in the coming months such as providing a dedicated branded URL for businesses that works very much like a website address, and the ability to manage one phone number from multiple devices.

“So if you are a small business that has a team of 5-6 people responding to messages, now instead of each one of them having to have their own number, you just have one number for the business because it makes it easier for customers. We will be introducing these premium features to the free small business app in the months to come,” he said.

As per a recent study conducted by Meta, two out of three people agreed that messaging is their preferred way of communicating with a business.

Idema said Meta has seen strong adoption and good growth for business messaging on WhatsApp in India. “In India people use WhatsApp a lot to communicate with one another, to communicate with colleagues, and are increasingly using it to also communicate with businesses. India is definitely a country that has taught us this globally. It’s really what people want to do. They are using the messaging app all day long to also talk to businesses. This is our research,” he said.

“I saw this on some of my recent trips to India that people were using the WhatsApp app to run their small businesses. So, they were using the same app that we use to answer questions from customers and take orders. And we realized we needed to build better tools for them. In the last few years, we have been building tools to help businesses respond to customer demands. What we see is that this is really starting to work for businesses. They are seeing real benefits,” he added.

He said the new suite of offerings and solutions will not impact the end-to-end encryption technology of the platform. “There is no change to the privacy and security of end-to-end encryption. For the cloud-hosted API technology, it’s the same thing. It’s the same signal encryption protocol between the customer’s phone and the cloud servers that host the API. The only difference is that in the cloud, the business has access to the information and that’s a service provider,” he said.

“What the users need to understand is that we make it very clear to them in the chat thread before they start talking to the business that the business can use that information. The business can see the information and they can use it in accordance with their privacy policy. There is no change to the encryption technology here. No change to the way the small business app works. The only difference is that systems that run in a cloud, that’s a third-party hosting the software for you. Hosting the information for you as a business. We just need to make sure users are aware of that and comfortable with that before they start a conversation,” he added.

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