A WhatsApp logo is seen behind a phone
A WhatsApp logo is seen behind a phone that is logged on to Facebook in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, February 20, 2014.REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

It was only a matter of time, but now Facebook has made it official- WhatsApp will finally start making money for the social media giant, but not in a way most people expect.

WhatsApp on Thursday, Aug 1, launched a new API that will allow businesses to respond to customers within 24 hours for free, but a delay of more than a day will cost the company. The cost is a fixed rate that varies by country.

While businesses are still limited to just contacting people who have messaged them first, the new API will help automate shipping confirmations, appointments, reminders and tickets. The API also allows businesses to take advantage of third-party services like Zendesk, MessageBird or Twilio to respond to customer service inquiries.

The move is seen as a way to force businesses to respond even faster via WhatsApp, which in turn can lead to more people using the service and drive profits for the company. It is expected that WhatsApp will at one point start charging businesses for all messages sent, or cut down dramatically on the free threshold to make money.

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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 03: The Whatsapp app logo is displayed on an iPhone on August 3, 2016 in London, England.Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

Facebook is also allowing ads on the platform with links to a businesses WhatsApp numbers, the first time that the company has made such a move. A user can simply tap on the ad to begin a WhatsApp chat with a business. Businesses will see how well such ads do through the Ads Manager tools, which will be updated over the coming weeks.

After acquiring the instant messaging app in 2014, Facebook made WhatsApp free for everyone. Since then, there has been a lot of speculation on how the company would monetise the service, one of the most popular IM services in the world. 

At its F8 2018 conference, Facebook announced plans to monetise WhatsApp for business, which has seen three million brands jump on board since it launched in January. For end-users, not much will change as they can expect more services to be available on WhatsApp and faster replies.