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(Pocket-lint) - Facebook appears to be “backing away” from plans to sell ads that would run in WhatsApp, a messaging service that's popular throughout Europe.

The Wall Street Journal claimed the team behind the effort has been broken up in recent months, and all their work so far has been effectively “deleted from WhatsApp’s code". However, Facebook still wants to bring ads into WhatsApp’s Status feature as part of a goal to monetise the app.

We've known for months now that Facebook-owned WhatsApp would soon follow its chat and social app peers in offering ads. The company confirmed in 2018 they would appear in the Status feature (which is like Facebook or Instagram’s Stories), but it didn't reveal when they would start. Then, last May, Facebook quietly announced ads would arrive by 2020.

But it looks like WhatsApp will now remain ad-free. There's no word on when plans to integrate ads will resume. We're hoping for a comment.

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Facebook acquired the service for $22 billion in 2014. Since then, WhatsApp's co-founders, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, have both left the company. Acton even criticised Facebook's handling of the app, user privacy, and its targeted advertising policies. Koum and Acton were reportedly worried about Facebook watering down WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption, too.

Nevertheless, Facebook is plowing ahead, doing what it wants with WhatsApp. Most recently, CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed Facebook wants to merge Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram messaging. Perhaps that dream is interfering with WhatsApp's rollout of ads? Or maybe it found it difficult to maintain encryption while also delivering ads? It's too early to say.

For more about WhatsApp, including the top tips and tricks, see our guide.

Writing by Maggie Tillman. Originally published on 17 January 2020.