The most random and amazing things happened at my company Browserling in the last few weeks. Someone in India discovered that they can use WhatsApp on very cheap $20 phones (Jio Phones) via Browserling. These cheap phones can't run WhatsApp but if you go to Browserling, you can use it via web.whatsapp.com. He made a video (first video below), the video went viral, got reposted everywhere, and more people started making videos about it (some more links below). I started getting crazy traffic, thousands, then tens of thousands of visitors and it just kept increasing from India, all trying to use Browserling as a WhatsApp proxy tool. Indian blogs picked it up, started reposting it, too. Traffic was going insane.

Use Whatsapp on Jio Phone with 100% working method

More examples:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI-PjW3868k
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEKCvUUp_Lw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U_SuM7JDSPU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJBGFOY0Jy0
https://jiophone4g.com/jiophone/how-to-use-whatsapp-on-jio-phone#r
http://www.rkhack.com/trick-use-whatsapp-jiophone/
etc.

I couldn't handle tens of thousands of free sessions and it just kept increasing. I couldn't understand what was happening. Why was everyone trying to go to WhatsApp inside Browserling? I didn't know there was a viral video. I thought it was a DDOS attack. I noticed everyone had this weird user agent that said it was a JIO phone. I throught these attackers were fools. A classic newbie mistake not to randomize the user agent. So I quickly banned this JIO user agent with "fatal error" message. But instead of a victory, my web servers started getting DDOSed even more, these users were hitting refresh like crazy. I spent half a day identifying the attackers, found that it was all Indian IPs and blocked half of country at firewall level. All was well. I could go to sleep. But then suddenly someone messaged me and said why don't I let him use WhatsApp. Then 100 users started messaging me. Then 1000s. My Facebook was blowing up.

I was now thinking I was under the most sophisticated attack ever on a personal level. I had no clue what was going on. I started blocking all these people but I was getting messages faster than I could block them one by one. I was freaking out. I decided to delete my Facebook for my own safety. While I was looking for the delete link, I accidentally noticed a link to YouTube in one of the messages. I opened it and I instantly got it. This was no attack! I was going viral! But I still didn't know what to do and kept "fatal error" message.

Days went by and users started making videos about how to get around the "fatal error", like this one:

Jio phone me what'sapp "fatal error solved" without Browserling.com 100% Working

They started linking to my competitors as an alternative solution. I was thinking, hah, great, let them crash competitor websites. A few more days went by and and then it suddenly struck me! Why am I blocking these users?! This is the biggest opportunity ever! I can capture tens of millions of users. Everyone in India who uses this phone.

I had no idea how much these phones cost or how much money Indian users spent on online services. I quickly put a $1/day link for 1 day of Browserling to see if I could easily monetize it, but no one bought this subscription. Then I decreased the price to $0.50 and still no one was buying. I put a $0.10 cents sessions and still no buyers. I couldn't provide a free service to all of India, so I decided at least to do something with this traffic.

So instead of banning the entire country via firewall or a "fatal error" message I created this message and asked users to follow @browserling and tweet messages about it:

And they did! All these users started following Browserling and tweeting about it. But they still couldn't use Browserling or Whatsapp, it was just a new message in place of "fatal error". I started getting thousands of new followers and tens of thousands of tweets about Browserling:

https://twitter.com/search?f=tweets&q=browserling&src=typd.

It looked like this:

Then I got curious. Would these users tweet anything that I asked them? So I decided to troll my competitors a little bit, and asked users to tweet a popular meme Taiwan number one to them. And it worked! Suddenly Twitter was full with my troll tweets:

That was super hilarious. I was literally rolling on the floor laughing. TAIWAN NUMBER ONE! COMPETITORS NUMBER NINE!

Then something weird happened with these tweets. Some kind of weird spam protection triggered at Twitter and they started blocking tweets about Browserling. No one could tweet with a @browserling mention anymore. So I changed message to one with just a shout out to browserling and without at-handle:

Then instead of just tweeting and trolling, I asked users to start following Browserling on Facebook so I could reconnect with them and let them know when the software was up and running again. I started getting thousands of new followers:

Turns out Jio Phone users would tweet, follow, like, and do anything I tell them to get access to Browserling. Very interesting.

After having had fun with this I remembered I had many loyal blog readers from India. I messaged some of my blog followers from India and we talked about this. It turns out users in India can't easily make online USD purchases with credit or debit cards as it requires a special bank permission. That's why no one was signing up for a subscription for a $1 or 50c or 10c. I kept chatting with my friends and it turns out in India they have their own localized payment system that they use. It's hard to access from the outside.

So I teamed up with my friends Sunit and Wrishiraj from Assam, India. They've built a Linux distribution for India called SuperX and have a company called Libresoft also based in Assam that can easily accept Indian payments such as UPI, prepaid wallets, and local debit and credit cards that work only inside India.

I got to work and over last two weeks I built a "WhatsApp over Browserling for India in an old browser on a $20 Jio Phone".

First I launched a simple user registration page. I just threw together quickest possible signup page. Simple HTML+CSS+jQuery. Does the job, works well and gets things done, just the way I like it. Here's how it looks on Jio Phones that have 240x320 resolution:

As soon as I launched it, I started getting thousands of new signups:

The software wasn't ready yet so I just left a message that asked users to keep tweeting to keep the momentum going:

I worked around the clock for over a week, 20 hours a day to create a new version of Browserling that can handle hundreds of thousands of users and can run thousands of Chromes in kiosk mode on servers with terabytes of ram. I put it to the test and it worked flawlessly:

But now I was no longer getting any tweets, likes or shares, and I was losing momentum. Everyone was just using it for free. I had to do something to keep it up. So after chatting with my friends I learned people in India love lotteries. So I created a Browserling Lottery:

The lottery had a countdown timer and gave a 50% chance of winning. To speed up the lottery countdown timer and increase chances of winning, users had to tweet about Browserling and follow Browserling:

Everyone loved it and wrote me hundreds of messages that they are winning the lottery and thanked me for making Browserling. The momentum was back up! I worked for a couple more days and just launched payments yesterday:

Currently I'm running a multivariate test on various plans and prices to find which ones are the most popular. I randomly display an option to buy a daily plan, a weekly plan, or a monthly plan with a different price. Here are all the possibilities. (Only one plan is displayed to one user, so for example, someone will see 19/week, someone else 29/week, someone else 12/week, etc.)

The price is in rupees. 9 rupees is 14 cents, 19 rupees is 30 cents, 29 rupees is 45 cents, 39 rupees is 60 cents. I'm using the local Indian payment processor called Instamojo, which is Stripe for India and integrates together all possible Indian payment methods.

While I was working on Indian version, the word spread to Cameroon and Nigeria where people also use cheap phones that can't run Whatsapp or other software. I'm now setting up a few servers for Africa and targeting African countries next. If anyone wants to help spread the word in those countries, please reach out to me at peter@catonmat.net. (Update: Browserling for Cameroon is up!)

This is well aligned with Browserling's vision, which is "run any application on any platform in any browser." In this case I've a web version of Whatsapp running in a Chrome on Linux, used in a cheap $20 phone's browser.

I will keep you posted about what happens. Do I take over India?! Does this go further and it's a success in Africa, too?! Or does this go nowhere? Find out in the next episode of incredible events at Browserling! See you next time!

Comments

HELDON Permalink
December 06, 2017, 22:00

Haha, awesome! I'm happy to hear you're doing great. In Europe such messing around with whatapp on a $20 phone is hilarous but in India it looks like it can go big.

I remember how many years ago I used Internet (even got skype running) on a LG GX200. Now it seems archaic :)

Abhik Permalink
December 07, 2017, 04:46

You forgot to mention how many people are going for the paid subscription. Indians love free things, and majority of people able to pay ₹9 via CC/DC/UPI or whatever gateway won't go for a JIO phone.

December 07, 2017, 05:37

This post is amazing but most of the people in India like free things

December 07, 2017, 09:27

Lol. I never seen whatsapp on such a small cellphones. By the way it is a nice post to read.

przemoc Permalink
December 09, 2017, 01:31

Interesting story.

Ankush Agarwal Permalink
December 12, 2017, 08:13

Wao - interesting. However couple of concerns/suggestions:

It is a BIG opportunity for you. Build a service and you'll gain billions of loyal users/followers like myself, who has been following you since many years now.

1) You could monetise it via ads instead of subscription model. When WhatsApp, FB, twitter, themselves, do not charge their users, you shouldn't charge them as an access provider for people using cheap phones.

2) If that doesnt work for you, you could always have the first few thousand users get free access and then redirect others to a payment based model (which should be extremely cheap and standard).

Alex Writing Permalink
January 09, 2018, 14:49

Haha, billions.

Shreshth Moham Permalink
January 09, 2018, 10:30

Indians love free stuff. But they are not too bothered if you show them ads, as long as you let them use your service. If someone's using a $20 phone (that too it's effectively free because it's subsidized by the ISP), why would they pay $1/month?
All in all, ads are the best way to monetize for the Indian masses.

Alex Writing Permalink
January 09, 2018, 14:50

What kind of ads exactly? If people can't afford to spend $1, would they be able to afford whatever an advertiser is promoting to them?

Ninju Bohra Permalink
January 09, 2018, 15:36

Advertising isn't only about direct sales (though that is nice) it is also about image/brand awareness. Even if the viewer of the ad can't (currently) buy the product (car, perfume, clothing, etc..) having the brand name being shown may lead to more conversations and image awareness

Chandrakanth Permalink
January 10, 2018, 08:42

Try Gutka ads

Manish Kumar Permalink
January 13, 2018, 09:11

Use cost per view ads. That's the best way to monetise.

Just a Nobody Permalink
January 16, 2018, 05:30

It's not about being able to afford $1. It's about our mentality of getting everything for free. People here will drink Phenol if offered for free. So yeah, ads are the way to go, with maybe a premium version that gets rid of the ads.

Jass Permalink
January 16, 2018, 13:17

Use Google adsense ads on the landing page before they can get access to the WhatsApp. You will be making 100s of dollars per day, believe me. The paid model won't work here.

SomePoorIndian Permalink
January 09, 2018, 10:35

If you have visitors pouring in from one particular country/region, the first thing you ought to do is write your messages in the language local to that country/region.
With due respect, people who buy those el-cheapo phones in India, most certainly can't read that much of English. (again, with due respect) Quite a few of them may not be able to read-write well in *any* language, certainly not big sentences.
Hindi is the most popular language in India. If you have Indian friends, you should ask them to terse messages in Hindi. Even Google Translate should do a decent makeshift job.

Anyways, it was interesting to read about your efforts and success. All the best!

January 09, 2018, 11:31

Very entertaining read. I wish you and Browserling the best and that you may find a way to profit from this huge opportunity.

local yokel Permalink
January 09, 2018, 12:46

Try the freemium model. 99 free messages and pay Rs. 99 per year after that. Indian 99 rupees is a magic figure .. 1 less than a hundred and not terribly hard on the budget.

Flimm Permalink
January 09, 2018, 13:28

Interesting! There's one piece of information missing for me: why can't users access web.whatsapp.com directly without Browserling? And don't you still need a WhatsApp account on an iOS or Android device, and to keep that device on and connected?

Vinayakam Murugan Permalink
January 11, 2018, 04:04

Yes, that piece of information is missing.

January 12, 2018, 10:50

I believe the normal JIO phone browser doesn’t support WhatsApp deliberately. Hence if JIO decides to block then probably we will learn another lesson.

January 09, 2018, 16:10

long time reader from india. this post is a mini crash course on startups, product management and growth hacking!

For a scale of how big jio is - their terms of conditions mention that "early bird" offer - refers to "only the first 100 million users". i can connect you to few folks who work on product at jio money team. albeit i heard they have a huge team and the phone team also works quite independently.

some reference info on their scale here http://www.huffingtonpost.in/2017/02/15/mukesh-ambani-claims-that-reliance-jio-has-crossed-100-million-s_a_21715056/

~Bosky

John Jay Permalink
January 09, 2018, 16:43

Don't understand the use case here. Why would someone want to use WhatsApp through web.whatsapp.com ? Doesn't that mean that the user has a smartphone already (where the real client is running)? So why would someone with a smartphone even want to use the app on this cheap phone ? Doesn't make sense to me from user's perspective. People are probably just curious to check out that it can be made to work, but do you really expect them to continuously use it and pay for it ?!

SomeRandomIndian Permalink
January 12, 2018, 14:58

Let's get some things cleared first.

Yes, you do need a smartphone already. But that doesn't mean one family can't share a smartphone that is constantly connected to the internet.

These people first install apps like these (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.applisto.appcloner) and then clone multiple accounts (probably of everyone in the family) into one phone. This phone is either disused or used only for WhatsApp (and that's made possible because of cheap Android handsets by the aforementioned JIO)

The newer phone, though, is for the people who either aren't acquainted with a smartphone or are too poor to buy a smartphone for every person in the family. And since WhatsApp is essentially a style statement here, being on it is absolutely essential.

January 10, 2018, 06:54

SERENDIPITY !

You had the right product at the right time !

Good for you.

January 12, 2018, 08:57

Don't you need WhatsApp app running on your phone to use WhatsApp Web? Is it mentioned in the article? I'm sorry if I missed it, please point me to it if already covered.

SomeRandomIndian Permalink
January 12, 2018, 14:50

Yes, you do. I don't think it was covered in his article, though.

January 12, 2018, 17:57

Worth To Reading

January 12, 2018, 18:02

This is real really work wahtsaap

nishaanjari Permalink
January 12, 2018, 18:04

Worth to reading this very lng artical

Savita kumari Permalink
January 12, 2018, 18:56

Super dude. I want a mobile version of whatsapp for jio phone. Use ads to monetize. We dont believe in paying for in development betas which is not user friendly

SomeRandomIndian Permalink
January 12, 2018, 23:51

I don't understand a few things.
How is it that USD payments require special permissions? As far as I know, they require less work than the average Indian transaction (you have two factor authentication for the average Indian transaction, which wasn't there whenever I used credit cards for transactions in USD).

I just think that people are reluctant to pay just because of the unfamiliar dollar sign.

Salman Permalink
January 14, 2018, 14:39

Most banks don't allow international transactions. To enable, you've to get specific card from bank and require international transaction rights.

Doing international transactions are deliberately made difficult to prevent scamming.

January 13, 2018, 01:47

This Whatsapp Viral Video is made by me.
My YouTube Channel is "IndianJugadTech" .

January 13, 2018, 01:48

The Viral Video is from Channel IndianJugadTech.

January 13, 2018, 03:40

Well, I don't why you had to block the Jio traffic. If you would have searched once in Google about Jio Phone, you would have found thousands of news articles about Jio. You could have monetized this traffic from the very first day. Now as for Rs. 9/day, I highly doubt that Indians will spend it as they love free stuff. So if any competitors start offering a completely free option with other smart ways to monetize the traffic, they will instantly move to that.

Anyway, let's see what is next in your story. It is quite interesting indeed.

January 13, 2018, 03:44

Nice In India lots of People buy this JIO 1500 Rs Phone and in Assam also a huge no of people use it.

January 13, 2018, 04:16

Indian here.. This is SUPER ENLIGHTENING && FASCINATING !

Suggestions:
- Rs 9 / day is waaaay too high. Remember the phone costs Rs 1300
- the people using have probably never made an online payment. I'll bet the majority don't know even how to begin paying online And/Or don't have the means too.
- Monetization suggestion: Take money from companies(small/large) for promotion on twitter/facebook/whatsapp, ask users to post about company. Profit!

Thanks a lot for this post. As a budding website owner this is very useful to me!

Khanabadhosh Permalink
January 13, 2018, 06:51

There is only one reason I don't get myself a Jio phone as a second standby - no WhatsApp. Now I am going to buy myself one and install the BrowserLing work around. Monetization? Ask Jio to buy you out- Jio is owned by the richest guy in Asia! But encash the cheque before you handover the keys to him ;)

aish Permalink
January 13, 2018, 09:40

My friend... just put ads on your website.. let google decide what ads will people click.. and get you paid... people will not buy those subscriptions.. firstly indians are not used to electronic payments.. cash on delivery is the most common practice when people buy from amazon or flipkart.com.... secondly if they had money they'd buy better phones and use whatsapp for free..

im just worried you'd lose all that traffic before its too late. just hang ads.. dont make it too irritating.. a small javascript thats display ad at the start like loading screen.. and small bottom screen apps every 5 mins or so

Chris Charles Permalink
January 16, 2018, 18:10

So does this mean all Jio users will have Whatsapp running on another phone somewhere and this just gives access to that other phones connection? Otherwise Whatsapp Web doesnt have an app to connect to...

Cool story though!!

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