Displaying items by tag: WhatsApp
WhatsApp to enable new feature amid fierce competition with Zoom
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic which has struck the entire world, forcing it into a great global lockdown, social distancing has become key to our survival.
This has caused an enormous growth in meeting apps such as Google Hangouts and especially Zoom.
Zoom has gained a lot of traction over the past few weeks, especially in the UAE, as the government eased restrictions on various VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) platforms such as Skype for Business and Google Hangouts and made Zoom available to the public.
One of Zoom’s key features is that it could host calls with up to 100 participants which has been the go-to for consumers all over the world in times of social distancing.
While WhatsApp is one of the most prominent messaging apps in the world, it now faces fierce competition since Zoom has taken the market by storm with its unique features. Due to this, it has been speculated that WhatsApp plans to introduce a new feature which will essentially enable group calls which would exceed the current limit of 4 users per call.
A report by WABetaInfo, a fan website which tracks WhatsApp’s latest updates, revealed, “WhatsApp, probably due to the concerns for the COVID-19 and the fact that more users are using group calls, has decided to extend that limit to allow calls with more participants.”
Adding that, “All participants will have to be on the most recent WhatsApp version for iOS and Android to be able to participate in a bigger group call.”
Zoom has very quickly become a key player in the VoIP market as of late. Apple’s FaceTime can support up to 32 people in a group call whilst Facebook Messenger can support a maximum of 50 people; this places Zoom at the forefront.
EU to re-launch deadlocked effort to regulate messaging apps
The European Union (EU) plans to push for greater regulation of internet phone messaging services such as Facebook Messenger, Skype and WhatsApp.
Can banks still trust “Whatsapp Business” after major security breach?
On Monday the 13th of May 2019, Whatsapp admitted yet to another breach in their security system: enabling targeting spyware to be installed on phones through voice calls. An Israeli spying firm indeed has been accused of using that security hole in Whatsapp used by 1.5 billion people.
Telcos and OTTs shouldn’t be subject to same rules
It’s no secret that telecom operators have struggled against the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) applications like WhatsApp and Skype, who have challenged traditional voice and SMS revenue streams. Some operators have called for regulators to subject OTTs to legacy telecommunications regulations in order to even the playing field. But such suggestions are misguided, according to the ITU.
Telecom operators are stuck in a predicament regarding OTT services who utilize their networks. They have little control over the growth of OTTs because users should be free to use the internet as they please. The network carrier only carries the IP packets from source to destination. They might be aware of the packets and their contents, but cannot do much about it. Carriers have had to roll with the punches and figure out how to adapt.
Ultimately, using VoIP (voice-over-IP) is a cheaper alternative to making expensive phone calls because the user doesn’t have to pay to use the dedicated phone line and instead utilizes an internet connection without any extra costs. As is the case with most VoIP services, calls made using the internet are often free while calls made to a cellular network require a payment. The advanced communication functions of modern smartphones have played a role in the rapid growth of OTT services.
The question is: what can network carriers do about it? Telecom carriers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to VoIP services, statistics show. Some network carriers reacted, of course, by imposing restrictions on VoIP services. AT&T did this when Apple released its iPhone and the US telecom operator didn’t want its network being used for VoIP calling. AT&T lifted the block in 2009 after pressure from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
AT&T had an agreement with Apple to ban apps that would enable iPhone users to make phone calls using a wireless data connection. The scandal was revealed when the FCC requested that the companies explain why Google’s Voice app was rejected for the iPhone app store. The FCC was led to investigate if AT&T and Apple were colluding to prevent competition, sparking the beginning of a sour relationship between telecom providers and OTTs.
Can telcos come out on top?
For decades, telecom operators had free reign to charge rates for voice, data and SMS largely in excess of their marginal cost, which created a market ripe with innovation. The International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) recent report ‘The State of Broadband 2017’ highlights the struggle telecom operators have faced since that period began to wane, as online applications became increasingly popular with consumers around the world who wished to interact in ways not possible through traditional communications channels.
Communication has been transformed by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, WeChat, Google, WhatsApp and Viber. These OTT services have “transformed the way people build communities and search for information, and made valuable contributions to health, education, finance and entertainment,” ITU claims in the report. “Online applications now generate a significant proportion of the socioeconomic impact of digitization and utilization of the internet itself.”
The demand for OTT services has driven the telecom industry to a new era, and some telecom operators – in defense of their traditional revenues – have sought to “handicap” the growth of OTT players, the report suggests. It’s important to note, however, that these OTT services, however disruptive they may be, are driving demand for telecom operators’ broadband services. Without the content and services that OTTs provide, consumers would be less willing to pay operators for internet access, ITU claims.
“The operators’ complaints make as much sense as cable operators that sell access to cable channels complaining that people are watching too much TV, driving up the demand for their own services,” the report says, “Or a restaurant complaining that too many people want to eat its food driving up food costs. Operators sell access – not content – but people only want that access to use online content.”
Telecom operators, according to the report, claim they cannot invest in their networks because online OTT services have limited their ability to generate revenue. The ITU says this is “inaccurate” and “misguided”.
Some telecom operators have called upon regulators to apply the “same rules for the same service” by encouraging authorities to subject all online OTT services to legacy telecommunications regulations. ITU rejects this, emphasizing that OTTs don’t offer the “same service” as telecom operators, and that subjecting them to the same rules would be “entirely inappropriate”.
OTT services like Facebook and Google, for example, don’t provide equivalent services as telecom operators, the report points out. Operators provide access to the internet and some vertically integrated services that take advantage of, and are bundled with, general access. Online OTTs, on the other hand, provide interactive experiences for internet users that go beyond traditional voice and SMS, including payment services, chat services and photo/video sharing.
The fundamental differences between the telecom sector and online OTT services has led to the establishment of different rules, the report highlights. For instance, telecom regulations are intended to ensure that established operators – who own network infrastructure with high barriers to entry and face limited competition – do not use these privileges to the disadvantage of consumers. OTT services, by contrast, don’t control network infrastructure and must compete fiercely to retain customers who could easily be swayed.
There’s also the perception that OTT payers get a “free ride” on telecom network infrastructure which is financed by operators. But in truth, OTT players invest billions of dollars annually in a combination of physical facilities, according to the ITU, including data centers, fiber networks, servers and routers, which form an “essential part of the physical fabric of the internet”. In fact, according to the report, online OTT players invested an average of US$33 billion per year in infrastructure from 2011-2013.
ITU argues that telecom operators should recognize how much online OTT players drive consumers’ willingness to pay for internet access, which then provides more opportunities to generate revenue and finance new infrastructure. According to the report, consumers who demand the most data tend to spend more money on mobile contracts that feature high-speed data – revenue that goes directly to the telecom operators.
“Regulatory authorities do not have to choose directly between the interests of online application providers and telecom operators,” the ITU report concludes with. The most important aspects of internet usage that regulatory authorities should focus on, the report suggests, are adhering to customer needs, ensuring that the internet is widely available, and prioritizing connectivity, competition and innovation.
Saudi Arabia to lift block on internet video calling
Internet video calling services like WhatsApp, Skype and Viber, will be available to use in Saudi Arabia next week, after coordination between the Communications and Information Technology Commission and telecommunications service providers to allow applications that provide voice communications over the internet.
Communications and Information Technology Minister, H.E. Eng. Abdullah Alswaha, said the commitment had been confirmed by the cooperating parties to enable internet users in the kingdom to use applications to make high quality voice and video calls, under the condition that all applications are reviewed every so often.
“This fruitful cooperation between the kingdom’s telecoms partners comes under the umbrella of ‘Customer First’,” the Minister said, “a policy in which everyone works in order to give all telecom subscribers in the kingdom the best services that meet their expectations and satisfy their needs.”
Saudi Arabia has previously taken steps to improve customer service and create more transparency in the telecom sector, including the introduction of the quarterly index of complaints filed by subscribers to telecommunications providers.
More initiatives by the Commission are set to unfold in partnership with telecom providers, according to Arab News, to improve the sector and customer experience, in line with Saudi Vision 2030, a plan to reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil, diversify its economy, and become a more digital, customer-centric society.
WhatsApp announces plans to monetize its platform in effort to address ‘sustainability issues’
WhatsApp, which is one of the world’s most popular messaging applications - has finally announced a strategy for the monetization of its service in an effort to address issues regarding its ‘sustainability’. Concerns have long been raised over its sustainability, but now the application which was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $22 billion has revealed its plans.
WhatsApp published a blog post in which it outlined its plans to launch a new innovative service that specifically targets large businesses, with green tick verification badges and a host of other communications tools. In addition to this, it also plans to introduce a ‘free app’ for SME’s.
A spokesperson for the messaging platform said, “Over a billion people use WhatsApp every day to stay connected with their family and friends, and over time, more people are using the app to communicate with businesses they care about too.”
Analysts have claimed that WhatsApp have identified a gaping hole in the market for businesses all over the world, especially those located in Asia, where the platform is a staple, use the service as a free way of connecting merchants and consumers. On the company’s blog post it highlighted information gathered from a survey it conducted, which indicated that users prefer when businesses use WhatsApp as it makes them feel more comfortable buying from a retailer that establishes a connection between the invisible sides of a digital transaction.
The blog post added, “We’ve heard stories of shopkeepers who use WhatsApp to stay in touch with hundreds of customers from a single smartphone, and from people who are unsure about whether or not a business on WhatsApp is authentic.”
The issue of monetization has always been an issue for technology products as companies have to engage in an education process in order to convince users to get past the notion that digital services are ephemeral enough to not warrant a cost. That’s fine, but tech firms have overheads and employees to pay, which makes it extremely challenging in the sense that one of the biggest problems in the industry are its most integral.
WhatsApp COO, Matt Idema confirmed that the firm does plan on introducing fees for businesses, but claimed that he didn’t yet have the details of what services would be monetized. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he said: “We do intend on charging businesses in the future. Naturally, people might wonder how we plan to keep WhatsApp running without subscription fees and if today’s announcement means we’re introducing third-party ads. The answer is no.”
The COO also disclosed that WhatsApp will commence tests on tools that enable users to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organizations that you want to hear from. This could for example allow you to communicate with financial institutions such as a bank over a recent transaction which you believe to be fraudulent - or with an airline over a cancellation or a delay.
WhatsApp continues to appear reluctant to want to go down the advertising route, which is in stark contrast to its parent company, Facebook, whose entire business is funded by huge advertising revenues. Facebook began introducing sponsored posts in its Messenger app in July of this year as it seeks new ways to engage users of its messaging service with advertising clients. However, it’s plain to see that Facebook is now pushing for WhatsApp to make its acquisition worthwhile.
Facebook posts 71 percent increase in Q2 profit
Social network giant Facebook posted a 71 percent increase in Q2 profit and a 50 percent rise in mobile ad sales, extinguishing rumors that ad revenue growth had faded for the company as it runs out of ad display space. Facebook also announced a new milestone that there are now 2 billion people using the platform.
Facebook’s shares reached a record high on Thursday, July 27, after it posted positive results, adding more than $27 billion to its market value. The company’s shares increased 6 percent to $175 in early trading, adding gains worth twice the market capitalization of rival Twitter, Reuters said.
Facebook admitted that ad revenue growth is expected to slow down during 2017. Growth in ad sales did drop to 47 percent in Q2, after a 51 percent increase the previous quarter, but that didn’t seem to bother investors who are now looking ahead to new ad growth opportunities with Facebook’s other platforms including WhatsApp, Messenger and with video.
Moffett Nathanson Research analyst Michael Nathanson said, “The strength of Facebook’s mind-boggling results continued to be a testament of the platform’s massive user base and unparalleled targeting abilities.”
While Facebook reported a milestone 2 billion users, its other platforms Messenger and WhatsApp, have more than 1 billion users each. Every day, more than 175 million people share a Love reaction, and on average, over 800 million people like something on Facebook, the company claims. What’s more, over 250 million people use Instagram Stories every day, and more than 250 million people use WhatsApp Status every day.
“I'm proud of the progress our community is making, and it comes with a responsibility to make sure we have the most positive impact on the world that we can,” said Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in an online post. “That's why, last month, we updated Facebook's mission to focus not just on connecting the world, but also bringing the world closer together.”
Mobile advertizing was one of Facebook’s strongest revenue sources, accounting for 87 percent of the $9.16 billion in total ad revenue, as the average growth in ads increased 24 percent to a record high. Credit Suisse analyst Stephen Ju said advertisers will still buy Facebook ads space despite an increase in prices, due to Facebook’s superior return on investment compared with other digital platforms.
Facebook shares at record high following release of its financial results for Q2
Social networking colossus Facebook has seen its shares soar to a record high after it disclosed the financial results of its second quarter, which revealed that its mobile advertising business has grown by a staggering 50%. The results reaffirm the view that Facebook is now the venue of choice for an ever-increasing amount of online advertisers.
Facebook owns four of the most popular mobile services in the world, and it has seen it shares rise by more than 4% to $173 following after-trading on the Wall Street Stock Exchange. However, overall Facebook’s stock price has climbed to almost 44% this year.
Facebook has been adding more and more advertising into its Facebook News Feed, but that has become condensed, whilst it has also added adverts to its photo-sharing app Instagram, which has more than 700 million users. Facebook currently has over 2 billion users worldwide.
Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed that he plans to monetize its two messaging services Messenger and WhatsApp, which combined have more than 1 billion users each. Zuckerberg has expressed his desire to see the company move faster on this aim, but claimed he is confident they will get it right in the long-term.
Facebook also continues to accelerate its push into video, the social networking giant has identified this as an opportunity to win advertising spend from the TV industry, as more and more people spend their time consuming news and video content on its platform. Facebook is expected to launch a new video service that will include scripted shows, which is a sharp change of strategy from an organization which is founded on user-generated content.
Zuckerberg has previously stated that he firmly believes that video represents the future of Facebook’s business over the next 2-3 years. Facebook has officially confirmed that its total revenue rose form 44.8% to $9.32 billion in the second quarter of the year, which beat the average forecast of the $9.20 billion predicted by financial analysts. Facebook enjoyed incredible growth in mobile advertising, which has increased to nearly $8 billion.
Facebook Chief Financial Officer, David Wehner, expressed his delight at the financial results, and claimed that he expected to see Facebook continue to grow its mobile advertising capacity. He said: “In mobile we're continuing to see great strengths. We're seeing more and more ad dollars getting allocated to mobile, and we think that trend will continue."
Austrian government introduces legislation which allows police to access WhatsApp messages
The Austrian government is set to introduce controversial legislation which would grant police authorities in the country the ability to access encrypted messaging services such as WhatsApp and Skype. The government has claimed that the legislation has been drafted in an effort to ‘crackdown’ on criminals who are increasingly avoiding the use of communication via telephone.
Austria’s Justice Ministry said that government officials has consulted with political, technology, civil rights and legal experts to review its draft legislation - that would ultimately enable authorities to access and monitor real-time conversations on messaging service application.
However, it has transpired that such surveillance would only be permitted with a court order into investigations in relation to potential terrorist activities, or other crimes punishable by at least five years imprisonment. Other EU countries such as France, Italy, Poland and Spain has adopted similar policy changes and introduced new laws.
It remains unclear how Austria would conduct such a surveillance program, although it has been suggested that one approach would involve the installation of software on the computers and mobile devices of suspects using messaging tools with end-to-end encryption. That would prevent the government from accessing information by means of traditional, remote eavesdropping techniques.
It’s been further disclosed that such tools are sold by a handful of Austrian firms who specialize in selling off the shelf surveillance to governments. "Law enforcement and intelligence agencies are gravitating toward this type of spyware to overcome the challenge of end-to-end encryption," said Ronald Deibert, director of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs in Toronto.
Deibert’s institute investigates the abuse of such surveillance tools, and he stressed the importance for governments to make sure they have proper oversight and public accountability when granting police authorities the right to use these particular surveillance technologies. It has been reported that the Austrian Judicial system has already sentenced several individuals to prison for their links to terrorist organizations. Prosecutions were made in a number of cases due to the influence of data from devices that had been seized by law enforcement officials. The government plans to submit the bill to parliament after an Aug. 21 deadline for submission of opinions.
Facebook the first company to be fined by EU for providing misleading formation
The European Commission has fined Facebook €110 million for providing incorrect or misleading information during the Commission's 2014 investigation under the EU Merger Regulation of Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Today's decision sends a clear signal to companies that they must comply with all aspects of EU merger rules, including the obligation to provide correct information. And it imposes a proportionate and deterrent fine on Facebook. The Commission must be able to take decisions about mergers' effects on competition in full knowledge of accurate facts."
The EU Merger Regulation obliges companies in a merger investigation to provide correct information that is not misleading as this is essential for the Commission to review mergers and takeovers in a timely and effective manner. This obligation applies, regardless of whether the information has an impact on the ultimate outcome of the merger assessment.
On 20 December 2016, the Commission addressed a Statement of Objections to Facebook detailing its concerns. The Commission has found that, contrary to Facebook's statements in the 2014 merger review process, the technical possibility of automatically matching Facebook and WhatsApp users' identities already existed in 2014, and that Facebook staff were aware of such a possibility.
The decision has no impact on the Commission's October 2014 decision to authorize the transaction under the EU Merger Regulation. Indeed, the clearance decision was based on a number of elements going beyond automated user matching. The Commission at the time also carried out an 'even if' assessment that assumed user matching as a possibility. The Commission therefore considers that, albeit relevant, the incorrect or misleading information provided by Facebook did not have an impact on the outcome of the clearance decision.
According to the Merger Regulation, the Commission can impose fines of up to 1% of the aggregated turnover of companies, which intentionally or negligently provide incorrect or misleading information to the Commission.
In setting the amount of a fine, the Commission takes into account the nature, the gravity and duration of the infringement, as well as any mitigating and aggravating circumstances.
Facebook committed two separate infringements by providing incorrect and misleading information in the merger notification form and in the reply to a Commission request for information. The Commission considers that these infringements are serious because they prevented it from having all relevant information for the assessment of the transaction.
Moreover, the Commission considers that Facebook staff were aware of the user matching possibility and that Facebook was aware of the relevance of user matching for the Commission's assessment, and of its obligations under the Merger Regulation. Therefore, Facebook's breach of procedural obligations was at least negligent.
The Commission has also considered the existence of mitigating circumstances, notably the fact that Facebook cooperated with the Commission during the procedural infringement proceedings. In particular, in its reply to the Commission's Statement of Objections, Facebook acknowledged its infringement of the rules and waived its procedural rights to have access to the file and to an oral hearing. This allowed the Commission to conduct the investigation more efficiently. The Commission has taken Facebook's cooperation into account in setting the level of the fine.
On the basis of these factors, the Commission has concluded that an overall fine of €110 million is both proportionate and deterrent.
This is the first time that the Commission has adopted a decision imposing fines on a company for provision of incorrect or misleading information since the entry into force of the 2004 Merger Regulation. Past Commission decisions in this regard were adopted under the 1989 Merger Regulation in accordance with different fine-setting rules.
In August 2014, Facebook, which is active in social networking, consumer communications and online non-search advertising services, notified the Commission of its plans to acquire the consumer communications services provider WhatsApp. The Commission cleared the transaction on 3 October 2014, after assessing its impact on the internal market in relation to the following services:
(i) Consumer communications services: the Commission found that Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp were not close competitors and that consumers would continue to have a wide choice of alternative consumer communications apps post-merger. Although consumer communications apps are characterised by network effects, the investigation showed that a number of factors mitigated the network effects in this case.
(ii) Social networking services: the Commission concluded that, no matter what the precise boundaries of the market for social networking services are, and whether or not WhatsApp is considered a social network, the companies are distant competitors.
(iii) Online advertising: the Commission concluded that, regardless of whether Facebook would introduce advertising on WhatsApp and/or start collecting WhatsApp user data for advertising purposes, the transaction raised no competition concerns. This is because, besides Facebook, a number of alternative providers would continue to offer targeted advertising after the transaction, and a large amount of internet user data that are valuable for advertising purposes not within Facebook's exclusive control would continue to exist.
With respect to all three services the Commission carried out its competitive assessment also assuming a scenario where automated user matching would be possible. It concluded that, even in this scenario, its conclusions as to the lack of anti-competitive effects of the proposed transaction would stand.