Messaging application WhatsApp said on Thursday that it would begin allowing business accounts for the first time, a step that brings the free service closer to a plan that would make money for its corporate parent, Facebook Inc.

 

Whatsapp for Business ?

Some businesses already use WhatsApp, with 1.3 billion users, to answer inquires from customers. Business accounts will allow them to set up automatic greetings, see statistics about their messaging and set up a profile page with hours of operation and other information, WhatsApp said.

The accounts are aimed at businesses that receive a high volume of WhatsApp messages and need help keeping up, WhatsApp Chief Operating Officer Matt Idema said.

“What we saw was a need for businesses to have more efficient tools,” Idema said in an interview.

The WhatsApp blog said the app will be available for Android only.

Idema, who was a Facebook executive before he joined WhatsApp last year, said WhatsApp intends to charge businesses in some form in the future, but he said it was too soon to discuss when that would happen or what the future business services would look like.

Facebook bought WhatsApp, a pun on the phrase “What’s up?”, in 2014 for $19 billion, attracted by the size of its user base. WhatsApp used to charge a $1 annual subscription fee but dropped it in 2016, leaving the service without a source of revenue.