The creators of WhatsApp say they're staying true to their formula of simply letting people connect with each other and now with businesses, all with privacy in mind.
Co-founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton explained Tuesday during the Wall Street Journal's WSJ.D Live global technology conference in Laguna Beach, California, that the instant messaging app's plans to help its one billion users better communicate with businesses is much about necessity and demand.
"I haven't met anybody who is on hold [while on the phone] and gets excited about it," said Koum, attracting laughs from the crowd. "If we can apply communications with businesses, people's lives will be a lot better."
Acton added, "There was pent-up demand. It meant that we really needed to build this."
This includes a bank sending a warning about a potentially fraudulent transaction or receiving a notification a flight delay. To make this happen, however, WhatsApp is sharing users' phone numbers with its parent Facebook, which drew some criticism over privacy.
The significant change comes more than two years since being acquired by social media behemoth Facebook. While the change makes it easier for businesses to contact users, Koum and Acton both promised users' privacy won't be compromised and there will be "no spam."
Despite users' phone numbers being linked to Facebook, Koum reiterated they will be secure thanks to the introduction two years ago of end-to-end encryption two.
"We never really had a lot of information about our users to begin with," he said. "We never asked our users for their names, for their gender, for their ages or where they live, so it's not like we're sitting on this wealth of information.
"We always built our system in a way [so we] know as little information about our users as possible," Koum concluded.
Regarding Facebook's role in the company, Koum and Acton said the social media giant has been very supportive and somewhat hands-off.
"We continue to operate as a standalone entity," Koum said.