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Mobile messaging program WhatsApp to introduce fee

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- WhatsApp, a popular mobile messaging application, is poised to impose a yearly fee of US$1 or NT$29 beginning on the second year of usage, to the dismay of many users.

The company has confirmed the price scheme for the Android, BlackBerry, and the Microsoft Phone 8 platforms. On Apple's iOS platform users pay a one-time fee of NT$29 for WhatsApp.

The industry speculates that the move to charge users will cause a major shift in the fiercely contested mobile messaging landscape, as WhatsApp faces stiff competition from other alternatives being offered free of charge, such as LINE, Viber, WeChat and Skype.

Many users vowed to switch to other alternatives in protest, according to comments posted on various websites and internet communities.

LINE, a fledgling contender growing rapidly in popularity, indicated that its global user count now exceeds 100 million, with Taiwan ranking third worldwide at 11 million, behind Japan's 41.51 million and Thailand's 12.27 million users at a press conference yesterday.

Meanwhile, WeChat, with over 300 million users worldwide, announced the launching of its new “public account” function, which enables the creation of corporate and community accounts that may be managed by multiple users.

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