I’ve been talking to people through you and you probably already know that. You can’t read any of the messages but you can see when I’m online, and you know when I read the messages. After trying really hard, I still can’t remember the year I started using WhatsApp, so I just requested that info for my account. Yes, nostalgia brought me to writing this but the bigger picture is bigger than that.
No Ads, No Games, No Gimmicks
This phrase was one of the promises made to the users when Facebook acquired you. While the ‘No ads’ part is still true, the other two don’t seem to be. You were created in 2009 by guys that just wanted a better messaging platform. They were inspiring. They quit their jobs, traveled, and got curious. All of that is still there in your DNA. I personally think WhatsApp statuses are one of the most underappreciated features of all time.
In fact, in some places, when someone removes their WhatsApp display picture, their friends assume something is wrong and reach out to them. It is almost therapeutic how such a simple thing can be a cry for help and that too in a universal way. I’ve also been one of the most active broadcast list users for my blogs (back when I had one). All of this combined makes you an excellent app.
Expansion and evolution are a necessity, I get it. So Facebook also thought it’s best if WhatsApp Pay and some other features also join the party. Why not make it an all-rounder comprehensive app? What everyone working on you missed is the cost of evolution. You’re getting some bells and whistles with the new policy, but they come at a cost that’s too much for me.
The simplest thing I can think of right now is my privacy. I’ve taken WhatsApp as one of the most intimate apps on my phone. For many others too, it is a personal platform and we’d like to keep it that way. It is something I check in the morning and right before going to sleep. That said, I’d certainly not like promotions there.
I know, I know, you haven’t enabled ads, just merged the WhatsApp data with the Facebook data to pool resources. It isn’t a direct advertisement but it supplements ads and promotions. My complaint is that WhatsApp wasn’t allowed to stay true to its word even for a full decade after its acquisition by Facebook. Now that you’ll let businesses know more about me, its good for business but it isn’t personal anymore.
It is technically sound. That’s why nobody can bat an eye at Facebook or at you for doing anything wrong. But on a personal level, I feel wronged and that’s because you didn’t stick to your word. Especially in a time when that mantra is our best defense to keep it simple.
In The End
Don’t worry I’m not guilt-tripping you with Linkin Park, but in the end, I’m forced to leave. This is simply because you just won’t give me an option. You won’t say it can be an opt-in or one-time access for businesses and others. You don’t give me the freedom you used to give so far. The freedom to ignore what I wanted to ignore.
Things can now reach my inbox through you, irrespective of whether I want them to. You’re becoming SMS. Random people used to bug me on SMS and now it is opened just for OTPs. Random people will bug me now on WhatsApp, I’m just not prepared for that. So thank you for the features and the memes and groups, but it is goodbye.
Note To Readers Of The Open Letter To WhatsApp
This was an open letter to WhatsApp, something I wanted to do for a while but was just caught up elsewhere. Through this, I’ve tried to humanize WhatsApp, because I’ve been on the platform every day for as long as I can remember. I’m sure you’ve used it too, and maybe you landed here after seeing this as someone’s WhatsApp status.
Here’s what I want from you. I want you to think about what you give to get what you get. It doesn’t have to be a trade always. In this case, the trade is letting WhatsApp take a step towards being slightly less private, less personal. I didn’t like it. I won’t ask you to quit it if you don’t want to, but just think about it, and maybe share this if you agree. Cheers.