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WhatsApp tests in-app business directory as Facebook mulls ads

Whatsapp Business Directory
Whatsapp Business Directory (Image credit: Facebook)

What you need to know

  • WhatsApp is piloting a new in-app business directory.
  • The directory will display nearby businesses based on different categories.
  • The pilot is taking place in São Paulo, Brazil, but will likely expand to other cities.

WhatsApp is giving users more ways to connect with businesses by testing a new in-app directory. The feature will allow users to browse local businesses nearby through several categories such as automotive, apparel, food, and more.

The feature was announced on Wednesday by the head of WhatsApp, Will Cathcart. In a series of tweets, Cathcart explains that the feature is built with privacy in mind and that search queries or locations won't be logged by the company.

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Users on even the best cheap Android phones should have access to the feature, but for now, it's only being tested in São Paulo, Brazil, which Cathcart says is "home to millions of small businesses." However, the directory could expand to other cities depending on feedback from early users over the next few months.

Facebook VP of business messaging Matt Idema told Reuters that India and Indonesia were likely candidates to expand the pilot, saying that it could be "the primary way that people start a commerce process in WhatsApp."

Notably, Brazil and India are two countries where users can set up WhatsApp payments to send and receive money.

A business directory could be a particularly useful feature for WhatsApp, which does not run ads despite its increased focus on connecting users with businesses. However, while Facebook has been relatively slow to monetize the app, Idema did say that ads were not outside the realm of possibility for WhatsApp.

There's definitely a route on ads, which is Facebook's core business model, that over the long term I think in some form or another will be part of the business model for WhatsApp.

The business directory is the latest among the several features in WhatsApp related to e-commerce, making it easier to shop straight from the app.

Derrek is a long-time Nokia and LG fanboy who loves astronomy, videography, and sci-fi movies. When he's not working, he's most likely working out or smoldering at the camera.