Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Did WhatsApp charge anything? I thought for contracts you needed some kind of actual dollar amount (even $1) for it to be binding? Is that very US-law specific or am I way off here?

For a contract to be binding, you need consideration[1] from both parties. A contract where you give me something for nothing is not binding, we both need to be giving each other _something_. That something need not be money: A contract saying that you agree to give me your house if I give you my car would qualify. Google and Facebook extract enough value from targeting ads based on the personal information we agree to give them access to that access to said information is enough to qualify as consideration. I'd argue that, even if WhatsApp doesn't have a monetisation strategy that leverages said information, it's credible enough that it would qualify as consideration.

1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consideration

I worked as a developer in the promotion and giveaway industry.

Consideration was always in interesting discussion by our company's general counsel when going through training.

On thing that stuck out to me was the company would always review entry criteria if it may any requirement beyond what would be commonly available to the lowest ranking member of society. This was typically considered to be a computer with internet access as it was likely to be available at a public library.

While mail has become a more accepted means of non-consideration entry, I believe there was a time where it was considered consideration. Counsel argued that mail-in entries required the submitter to own or purchase a stamp, a postcard, a writing device, and potentially an envelope for the postcard.

An "app only" contest was given extra scrutiny because it required the user to own some sort of smartphone or mobile digital device.


While, that was contests and promotions (in which case, they needed to avoid running an illegal lottery), I imagine a similar argument could be made for WhatsApp. WhatsApp is only available if you own a smartphone capable of downloading the app.

That still depends on the jurisdiction: Scotland, for example, does allow for contracts without consideration: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scots_contract_law

Same in Germany: you can contract to gift something.

Of course, German contract law is very strange and alien to every other legal tradition (except Japan, I think, and that‘s only because they modeled their civil law on ours).

As the page you linked explains, in Civil Law the consideration is not required.

IANAL, but only consideration is a common law thing, and is not required in the majority of EU countries, provided that I recall correctly.

It changes a lot depending on your jurisdiction, but is generally:

> A valid contract needs the following elements: People entering the contract must intend the contract to be binding. An offer is made by one person and is freely accepted by another. Some price (money, right or benefit) is paid in return for a promise. [0]

So the fact WhatsApp is providing a service, means some price has been "exchanged" (for lack of a more precise term). The price does not need to be financial, any benefit can be viewed that way.

So yes, it does appear that a legal contract was formed. Even in the US. [1]

(A financial benefit is not required, but it makes it more clear that the contract was valid. Hence the habit of ridiculous $1 contracts.)

[0] https://www.legalaid.vic.gov.au/find-legal-answers/consumer-...

[1] See under Consideration: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/175238

Originally WhatsApp ran completely on a subscription model, users would pay a small fee to use the service and users were okay with that because it would mean nobody would try to commercialize their information.

Then Facebook gobbled them up, they removed the small subscription fee (not even giving an option to keep on paying it) and went: "All your data are blong to us".

It used to be the case. There were yearly subscriptions until some time after Facebook bought the service.

They charged me USD 1 sometime after I signed up.

Ironically thats what I loved about Whatsapp:

I paid them, they provided an awesome messaging client.

No spying. No ads.

The consideration thing is considered an exotic common law curiosity in continental law countries :-) Generally, an offer and an acceptance creates a binding contract inmost of Europe.

Didn't WhatsApp used to charge $1 per year to people in the early days?

Not sure if that was global but I did pay a Euro for it yep

Yes, it was global, it was how they financed their operation until Facebook bought them [0].

I wish they would still offer this as an option, tho I'd probably be skeptical of Facebook actually holding up their end of the deal and not tracking people who pay for WhatsApp.

[0] https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/04091...

That's for Android users. For iOS users it was $1 to buy the app, but they changed that some time before they were purchased by FB

I paid for WhatsApp.

That was a few years before they were bought by FB.

That's not even a little bit true.

It's called consideration. It's one of the main tests for a contract.

But the consideration does not have to in the form of money, it just has to be "worth" something. The considerations in question here are personal information on the users' side and the Whatsapp app+service on the company's side.

In civil law consideration is not required.

Applications are open for YC Winter 2022

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact