Tech WhatsApp is preparing a separate app for businesses and starting to verify business accounts (FB)

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Facebook-owned WhatsApp has started verifying businesses and is preparing a standalone app for businesses to chat with customers.

Jan Koum and Brian Acton WhatsApp play

Jan Koum and Brian Acton WhatsApp

(Reuters)

WhatsApp is going corporate.

The Facebook-owned messaging app has started verifying business accounts and is preparing a standalone app for corporations to chat with customers, according to a recently posted page hidden in its support website and an analysis of the app's code.

In the support page, titled "Verified Business Accounts," WhatsApp explains that it will display a green checkmark next to users when it has confirmed that the phone number associated with their account belongs to a business.

"WhatsApp is exploring ways for you to communicate with the businesses that matter to you," according to the support page. The page adds that "business verification is currently limited to a small number of businesses participating in a pilot program."

Separately, WhatsApp appears to be readying a standalone app for businesses, according to a code analysis by WABetaInfo, a website that has reliably uncovered upcoming WhatsApp features in the past. The app only appears to work on Android phones for now.

It's unclear if the separate app is currently available to any early WhatsApp business partners. Evidence in the code for the original WhatsApp app suggests businesses will be able to use the new app to send automated customer support messages like they can in Facebook Messenger.

A WhatsApp spokesperson declined to comment on its verified business program or plans for a standalone app for businesses.

Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014, but has yet to generate any revenue from the app's more than one billion users. But the social networking giant appears to be growing more focused on making money from the chat app. Opening up WhatsApp to businesses for customer support could be one way for Facebook to make money off it.

Earlier this year, Facebook appointed one of its marketing execs, Matt Idema, to be WhatsApp's chief operating officer. WhatsApp has also hinted that it's considering launching peer-to-peer payments in India, its largest market.

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