WhatsApp will begin to force users to accept its controversial new terms of service from Saturday, 15th May,;almost six months after it first announced plans to do so.
The company has announced that users who refuse to accept the new terms of service;will slowly lose access to WhatsApp entirely. From Saturday, they will be unable to dismiss the screen asking them to accept the new terms,;although they will still be able to receive phone calls, and reply to messages through notifications.
The company noted, however, that in time, even that will be disabled. This, experts say, will leave users with no choice but to accept the new rules, or delete their accounts entirely.
WhatsApp first announced its plans to update app in October 2020. The update, initially scheduled for February 2021, includes a set of features that will allow small;businesses to upload their catalogues directly to the app. This is to the allow WhatsApp users message companies, browse through their products;and complete a purchase, all without leaving the app.
The announcement, however, received an immediate backlash from users who accused the app of planning to share user information with Facebook, amongst other privacy breeches. This led to millions of people signing for competing services such as Signal and Telegram, ultimately forcing a three-month delay in the plans.
The company notes that the actual changes are small, and that the wave of panic from users in January was driven by misinformation.
Turning WhatsApp into ‘everything app’
Analysts have indicated that acceptance of the terms of service is crucial if Facebook is to achieve its goal behind buying WhatsApp for $19bn in 2014. The goal, they noted, is to turn the service into the western equivalent of WeChat, an “everything app” where users can chat not only with friends and family, but also order pizzas, pay utility bills, and contact essential government services.
In an interview, Martin Garner, an analyst at CCS Insight, pointed out that “the goal of the changes was clear”.
“Facebook has ambitious plans for expanding its messaging services to achieve what Tencent has done in China with WeChat, where people interact with businesses and shops, plus pay for goods and services using the messaging app.
“WeChat also has its own mini apps and games, and has become an essential part of the fabric of day-to-day life there. Achieving this position would be a huge prize for Facebook.”
Additionally, Daniel O’Connell, the research Vice-President for the analyst Gartner, predicted success for the company.
“The success of WhatsApp Business API further differentiates WhatsApp from competing offerings, making WhatsApp even more valuable, ubiquitous, and difficult to displace. Rival WeChat has proven the value of messaging app business usage.
“Obviously WhatsApp has the baggage of being owned by Facebook and the potential misuse of info by Facebook. But WhatsApp is ubiquitous, cheap, practical, and intuitive. Hence, the vast majority of smartphone users from five to 95 routinely use WhatsApp.”