After 72-hour lockouts ruined WhatsApp for some poor folks recently, a member of the XDA Developers forum hit back with a newly updated version of WhatsApp Plus, with ban prevention. That hasn't stopped WhatsApp from steadily shutting down various WhatsApp alternatives though, with dire consequences if you fail to play ball. Update: A permanent WhatsApp ban is now affecting some users.
XDA Developers member rip786 uploaded the new version of WhatsApp Plus soon after the ban was imposed, and while it will not remove a ban that is already in place, it will prevent you from receiving one if you do wish to continue using WhatsApp Plus.
You will need to uninstall the previous version of WhatsApp and Whatsapp Plus before completing the installation, but it appears to be running smoothly. This new and improved version of WhatsApp Plus also includes the Material Design aesthetic and the ability to "hide last seen" status, along with eliminating those pesky blue ticks, if you wish.
We can't say with any certainty how long this version of WhatsApp Plus will be up and running for, WhatsApp is clearly eager to clamp down on the usage of these third-party apps, but we'll keep you updated.
Head below the break for the original story.
Previous coverage: We previously reported that WhatsApp had imposed a 24-hour lockout on those users using WhatsApp Plus, an unauthorized app that uses WhatsApp's source code and core service, but adds some additional customization features like color selection and backgrounds for individual conversations. The story has taken a turn for the serious since then, with WhatsApp Plus being officially shut down following the scuffle.
WhatsApp clamps down on clones
The lockout didn't only affect users of WhatsApp Plus, but also the Material Design-themed WhatsAppMD as well as OGWhatsApp. A short while ago the creators of WhatsApp Plus informed their Google+ community that they had received a cease and desist letter from WhatsApp and that they had no choice but to wrap up the project:
We have received a cease and desist letter from WhatsApp and we are obligated to remove all download links and unfortunately delete this community..
Am really sorry for this but it's out of our hands and WhatsApp has pushed us into a corner that we can't escape this time..
It was a fun ride but it has come to an end..
Deepest regards from Rafalense and me and all the whatsapp+ team for your support
*21 January 2015 RIP WhatsApp+*
''Without warning'': the banned user backlash begins
With the ban steadily spreading across the WhatsApp user base, the reaction is starting to heat up. While there were still some users of WhatsApp Plus that remained unaffected, and some supposed ''remedies'' (that turned out to be no insurance against the ban), the cold light of day today has seen those affected increasingly irate about how the ban was handled.
The question on everyone's lips seems to be: ''why wasn't there any warning given?'' It seems reasonable to expect that in a situation like this, it would be fair to give those likely to be affected a general window for compliance. To send out a message to WhatsApp Plus users saying they had 48 hours to uninstall WhatsApp Plus and install the original WhatsApp or face a ban would have saved many headaches and more PR nightmares for the de-facto Facebook messenger. Those that have refused to uninstall WhatsApp Plus are now facing 72 hour bans and longer.
Third party clients were tolerated, but not approved
In case you're wondering how or why WhatsApp would take such steps, it is because developers of apps like WhatsApp Plus or WhatsAppMD have basically taken the source code of WhatsApp and adapted it, for example, to enrich the chat app with new functions or a different look. As you can probably imagine, this is clearly against the terms of WhatsApp's terms of service. The "Intellectual Property Rights" section says:
WhatsApp reserves all rights not expressly granted in and to the Service. You agree to not engage in the use, copying, or distribution of any of the Service other than expressly permitted herein[...].
To put it plainly: No modification of WhatsApp is allowed. While Android is open-source, companies are entitled to protect their intellectual property and restrict it from being adapted to ends they have no control over and that may impact on their branding (as we mentioned in our previous post, WhatsApp make a point of highlighting the possible security issues with adaptations of their source code).
WhatsApp has tolerated such apps in the past, but is now actively tackling them, as not only the lockout but also the cease and desist letters show. Of course, it should be a simple enough affair for WhatsApp to add additional customization options and a Material Design theme to satisfy those users now left out in the cold, but this remains to be seen.
Even users of the official version are affected
Even if at some time in the past you had tried out WhatsApp Plus and then returned to the official WhatsApp, you could still be excluded for 24 hours. Some of our readers let us know that they were using the official WhatsApp currently and were still locked out for 24 hours. The only thing they had in common was that at one point they had used WhatsApp Plus. Likewise if you have just been banned and switched back to the official WhatsApp (or done so to try to avoid being banned), don't expect to be given a reprieve: you'll still have to wait out the 24-hour lockout.
The 24-hour lockout could just be the beginning
So far, we can only speculate about what might happen after the 24-hour lockout if users continue to use WhatsApp Plus or other third-party apps. One possibility would be a permanent barrier (using your mobile phone number to identify you) so that any wayward users could no longer access WhatsApp in future. We have already checked with WhatsApp and asked for an official response. We'll update this article if a reply comes in.
The solution? Only use the official WhatsApp
Now that WhatsApp is officially taking action against third-apps, with all the might of Facebook's legal department behind them, users have only one real solution: revert to using the official client. You can either grab it from the Play Store link below or direct from WhatsApp's website as an APK. Although the official client has its quirks and is not exactly a feast for the eyes, currently it seems to be the only safe way to continue using WhatsApp without risking a lockout.
Is it time to jump ship from WhatsApp? Probably not
Of course, if all this leaves a sour taste in your mouth you have the option to abandon WhatsApp entirely and head on over to other worthwhile instant messaging services like Viber, Skype or Hangouts. The only issue with these networks is that they have nowhere near the range as WhatsApp, which now tops out at over 700 million monthly users.
(If you want to test the waters of a new instant messenger, we've rounded up the secure WhatsApp alternatives.)
When all is said and done, one question remains: why now? The modified versions of WhatsApp have been in circulation for a long time now. Perhaps Facebook is to blame (why not, huh?), considering Facebook has tried to shut down third-party Facebook apps by limiting their ability to share something as critical as photos.
Perhaps this all means that Facebook is thinking about monetizing WhatsApp in the near future and wants to close down as many alternatives as possible before it does so. Or it could just be a simple coincidence or part of a more general crackdown on intellectual property.
What do you think is behind this move? What will you do now?