WhatsApp cracks down on people using unofficial clients

WhatsApp is banning users from its service for 24 hours because they were caught sending and receiving messages on an unofficial client that wasn’t made by WhatsApp.

Many users afflicted an were using Whatsapp+, one of the most popular third-party WhatsApp clients for Android phones. Android Police noted that people using another WhatsApp alternative, WhatsappMD, are also reporting being banned.

Last weekend, as BGR India pointed out, several tech-focused websites in India erroneously reported that WhatsApp+ was actually going to be the new WhatsApp app, for some reason — perhaps because its support for themes and emoji can be seen as improvements over the standard client. In a statement posted to its FAQ page, WhatsApp explained why it banned certain Whatsapp+ users, and it’s not because it feels threatened by an app with skins:

WhatsApp Plus is an application that was not developed by WhatsApp, nor is it authorized by WhatsApp. The developers of WhatsApp Plus have no relationship to WhatsApp, and we do not support WhatsApp Plus. Please be aware that WhatsApp Plus contains source code which WhatsApp cannot guarantee as safe and that your private information is potentially being passed to 3rd parties without your knowledge or authorization.

Another reason why WhatsApp might want to control the clients its users can access is to make upgrades and updates easier to deploy. For instance, WhatsApp recently added an encryption system to its Android app, and is currently working to bring it to other platforms, like iOS. Having a bunch of amateur-level unofficial clients floating around could make the development process more complicated. WhatsApp is rumored to be launching a browser-based version of the service soon, which would lessen cross-platform issues.

In the early days of WhatsApp, there were devices that the messaging service didn’t support, like those running WebOS or Sailfish or certain Nokia feature phones. Plus, third-party clients were able to pull of nifty tricks the main app would never attempt, like merging your SMS messages and WhatsApp messages. But WhatsApp is available for every major mobile operating system — including iOS, Android, Blackberry and Windows Phone. Considering that [company]Facebook[/company] paid $18 billion for WhatsApp, it’s safe to assume that the official clients have had more resources devoted to them than lesser-known apps on Google Play.

Unlike Twitter, which has had its own long-running saga with third-party clients, WhatsApp never invited other developers to produce third-party clients and the official API does not allow it. Several unofficial APIs exist for interested developers to produce a WhatsApp client, but the company has tried to exterminate those as well. In 2014, WhatsApp used DCMA takedowns to remove several unofficial APIs from GitHub.

Unfortunately for apps like WhatsApp+, whose developer bragged his app works again, the fix for users is simple: delete non-approved WhatsApp apps and install the official one.