WhatsApp says so long to subscriptions

Chat for free, forever as US$1 annual fee gets ditched

Chat addicts can get ready to save a whole US$1 a year - WhatsApp just axed subscription fees for everyone.

Company founder Jan Koum made the announcement at a conference in Munich earlier today, saying the US$1 annual fee "really doesn't work that well."

That's because everyone has access to a credit card to keep their account topped up once the free 12 month trial expires. Ditching fees altogether should let WhatsApp crack new countries and increase its number of users even further.

With over 900 million monthly users now getting to chat for free, and US$900 million in fees drying up overnight, it's not exactly obvious how the Facebook-backed company is going to turn a profit, but Koum said it wouldn't be done by adding adverts to the service.

Instead, it would be looking at how businesses could use WhatsApp to get in touch with users, without resorting to spam and advertising. Think an airline being able to send you a WhatsApp message to let you know about a delayed flight.

Sound familiar? That's because Facebook did almost the exact same thing with Facebook Messenger. You can already use it to chat with businesses, and other features like payments and hailing Uber rides are being added too.

Koum also dropped a few hints on what to expect from WhatsApp in the future. Video calling is a real possibility, which could put Skype in the firing line as well as Google Hangouts and iMessage.

WhatsApp will stop charging fees immediately, but it might take a few weeks for any mention of payments to disappear from every version of the app. If you've just recently shelled out for another 12 months of service, tough luck - you aren't getting your buck back.