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Mobile Communications

WhatsApp not as open as Messenger to outside developers

Facebook-owned WhatsApp, the popular mobile messaging and calling service, has no immediate plans to offer tools to outside developers to let them build services on top of it.

Doing so could potentially introduce unwanted content into the app, slow it down, and disrupt the flow of one-to-one messages and interactions between its users, WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton said Wednesday during a panel talk at Facebook's F8 conference in San Francisco.

Acton delivered his remarks after two developers from the audience asked when, if at all, WhatsApp would offer application programming interfaces or APIs to them.

Acton was adamant. For the year, the company is focused on its voice calling service -- which is available for Android now and coming to iOS soon -- as well as its recently launched Web software, he said.

Facebook, meanwhile, has opened up its Messenger app to outside developers. Facebook thinks it can make Messenger more useful by letting developers incorporate functions into the app to let users share more types of content. Select online businesses can also now interact with customers inside Messenger through chats.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, during the opening keynote at F8, heralded Facebook's "growing family" of apps like Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram and Groups. But Acton's comments help to show that not every member of that family has the same goals.

A WhatsApp spokesman declined to comment further.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp last year for a closing price of roughly US$22 billion.

Some unofficial WhatsApp APIs have been posted to GitHub, but the company has tried to remove them. Last year WhatsApp issued take down orders to GitHub under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, over open source projects tied to WhatsApp.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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