While the Facebook-owned WhatsApp already had a version for the Web, the new desktop app offers other advantages. Unlike WhatsApp for the Web, the new app doesn't require users to have their smartphones turned on or to view messages via a desktop browser.
Other messaging services, such as Telegram, already offer desktop versions of their mobile apps. WhatsApp's move into that space could signal its desire to appeal more to enterprise users who have contributed to the fast rise of other collaboration tools like Slack.
Desktop App 'Extension of Your Phone'
The new version of WhatsApp can be downloaded from a desktop browser, according to a blog post by WhatsApp. Users can then sync the desktop version with their mobile apps by scanning QR codes with their phones.
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WhatsApp for desktop "is simply an extension of your phone: the app mirrors conversations and messages from your mobile device," the company said in its blog post. "Because the app runs natively on your desktop, you'll have support for native desktop notifications, better keyboard shortcuts, and more."
As of February, WhatsApp had more than 1 billion users. The next step for the company is to start growing its revenues, according to co-founder Jan Koum.
Eyeing Enterprise Users
Speaking at a conference in Munich early this year, Koum said his company has learned more about what works and what doesn't since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014. At the conference, Koum said WhatsApp would consequently be dropping the 99 cent annual subscription fee it once charged users after the first year.
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Rather than pursuing an advertising-based revenue model, Koum said the company would look at new ways to attract business users with paid services that complement the ones already used by consumers.
Communication and collaboration tools, such as Slack, which increased its user base 50 percent over just a few months last year, have already attracted a large following of enterprise users.
Whether WhatsApp -- with its consumer focus -- can crack that market remains to be seen. WhatsApp's parent company has similar ambitions with its Facebook at Work platform and recent launch of bot-driven Facebook Messenger services for business-to-consumer communication.
WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption could appeal to business users. However, that feature recently led to a two-day shutdown of the service in Brazil after the company declined to provide messaging data to authorities in connection with a drug-related criminal investigation.