Let's talk about the confrontation between the gray or unofficial WhatsApp API and Meta's official WhatsApp Business API: where it all started, how the confrontation between the two APIs developed and where we are now. The history of the emergence and development of APIs and their preferences will help you decide which WhatsApp API to choose for your business.
A bit of history: 2009 - 2018, the triumph of the gray API, the emergence of the WhatsApp Business API
Initially, since 2009, WhatsApp, unlike other popular solutions, kept its API closed. That is, programmers had no opportunity to link their software solutions with the messenger. For example, to integrate WhatsApp with CRM/ERP systems or to automate communication with users in some other way, using, for example, auto-replies or chatbots.
Facebook, now Meta, bought WhatsApp in October 2014. According to Meta's policy, the company kept the API closed because it wanted to protect users from unnecessary spam and mailings, to make the messenger InfoSpace more secure. By the way, this leitmotif of Meta's policy has remained in place until now, and the company justifies many of its decisions with these principles.
Nevertheless, the lack of open access to the API did not stop enthusiastic developers from searching for ways to optimize work with the messenger. Self-written gateways were created for integrations with WhatsApp based, as a rule, on WhatsApp WEB protocols. That's why most unofficial (or gray) WhatsApp API solutions so often need to scan QR codes and keep the phone turned on for the gray WhatsApp API to work. Some such solutions were successful, some not so successful, but it can be stated for sure that the market was captured by the gray or unofficial WhatsApp API and could be worth millions and millions of dollars. The gray API was also easily accessible to programmers. On GitHub, for example, you can still find libraries for integrating with WhatsApp, which, however, quickly become obsolete due to updates to the messenger.
It's only $30 for full access to WhatsApp Business API
Chatbots, chatbot builder, inbox chat, automated replies, broadcast newsletters - all included in the $30 price tagConnect WABA
In 2015, WhatsApp becomes the most popular messenger on the planet and as of today the app has over 2 billion users. It seems that WhatsApp has already gained a critical mass of users, which will not allow it to get off the podium so easily. By the way, in this article we analysed what makes up the popularity of WhatsApp and where in the world it is especially often used: 1MSG.io — WhatsApp Business Statistics 2023.
As the popularity of the messenger grew, so did the interest of businesses in working with it. Recall that Meta positioned WhatsApp as a free messenger protected from commercial mailings, which is partly why the introduction of tools for business work was delayed - the opening of the API required preparation.
In 2017, Meta announced limited access to the messengers Business API, and only the world's biggest brands had the opportunity to pilot the long-awaited Gateway. Since 2018, more and more companies have been able to connect to the messengers Business API and today the trend of simplifying the procedure of access to the Business API, despite the specific features of working with Meta's solution, continues.
2018 - 2022, BSP, the official API enters a phase of confrontation with the unofficial API
Before the release of the official WhatsApp Business API Meta waged a measured war with gray API providers: from the companies of legal representatives to the "violators" came letters asking to close the gray API work, but it did not come to the courts, in fact, some companies listened to the threats and simply changed the name of their solution to avoid possible legal delays with the company giant Meta. With the advent of the official decision, of course, a lot has changed.
We can't say that businesses immediately rushed to install the official WhatsApp Business API, but big brands, who were initially confused about working with the unofficial WhatsApp API, began to integrate with the official API despite the complexities of working with it. What kind of complexities are we talking about here? In the beginning it was very difficult to pass the registration of a number in WhatsApp Business API, the number, no joke, could connect from 2 months or more.
Despite the difficulties, the official WhatsApp Business API still had a number of significant advantages that outweighed even the headache of registration, namely: the status of the official solution, reliability, because the number was always available and did not depend on documentation updates on GitHub, as well as the absence of bans, which were very scary for businesses. With the official Business API, a business could not be afraid that its number would be blocked, and it would lose all its customers.
That's when the mysterious BSPs or Business Solution Partners appeared. These were companies that had proven themselves and were already working in the field of organizing business communication in messengers. These companies became vendors and were authorized to connect customers to WhatsApp Business API on behalf of Meta itself. You can find the list of such companies on Meta's website.
Here you might think that BSP is the only way to connect WhatsApp Business API, but that's not the case. The thing is that BSPs themselves can enter into partnerships with other companies, which in this case become another link in the API connection, they can be called API integrators. For example, we are 1msg.io, it should be noted at once that the terms of connection of BSPs can be worse than those of their partners, for example, we provide API connection for only $30 along with chatbot, chat, WhatsApp broadcast and many other things for free. Yes, intuitively you want to say that BSPs should have better conditions, but that's not always the case. Read more about our pricing policy.
Anyway, we can say that there was a certain parity between the official and unofficial WhatsApp Business API in 2018-2022. On the side of the official one was cheaper price, ease of connection and simplicity of work, on the side of the official one: the status of the number, its security and reliability of the provider. However, in recent years, the market position has been even more tilted towards official solutions.
2023 and a little prediction for the future
One of the main factors why the official WhatsApp Business API is starting to beat the gray API is the simplification of number registration procedures. From two months, to 10 minutes if you already have Meta Business Manager, if not, registration will take 15 minutes. it is true that after connecting the number you need to verify your business, because only officially registered companies or individual entrepreneurs can connect the API, but even without verification you will still have access to the number, and the verification itself will take a week at most.
Of course, WhatsApp Business API still has a number of complexities that may look disadvantageous against the gray background: these are the fees for template messages, the level of trust in the number and related restrictions, but the trend over the past few years shows that WABA is becoming easier and more accessible, so the choice for businesses can be expressed in one thought:
Use fast access to a gray API now to face increasingly frequent problems later with WhatsApp bans and updates that will require you to deal with constant solutions or spend more time and effort at the beginning of the journey to face fewer problems later on and enjoy a reliable connection, but likely at a higher price.
However, the price may not be so clear, because in 2023 Meta opened WhatsApp Cloud API, which you can use absolutely free of charge. Unlike WhatsApp Business API, which was initially connected by BSP, Cloud you will be able to connect on your own directly from Meta, but we warn you that Cloud will require patience and decent programming skills, because it doesn't work perfectly yet.
In the end it's up to you to decide which WhatsApp Business API you will connect, but if you opt for the official one and choose us, we will give you both the number and all the necessary tools to work with WhatsApp Business API at once, such as: free of charge. You will only pay for the connected number.