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Whatsapp free SMS app temporarily unavailable, fuels hoaxes

updated 09:45 am EST, Mon January 16, 2012

Users should ignore any forwarded emails, say devs

Whatsapp, an inexpensive app that offered a service similar to Apple's own iMessage but across platforms and iOS versions, has temporarily been pulled by the app developer for reasons not yet made clear. The company recently patched a potential security issue, but says this has nothing to do with the unavailability, and that it has "submitted a new version and [is] awaiting approval by Apple." It has also published a blog post warning users of hoaxes circulating about the app.

A security flaw had emerged in Whatsapp earlier this month that allowed third parties to modify status messages for users of the service, which sends free instant messages and MMS-type files to both iOS and other brands of smartphones. The developers moved quickly to fix the flaw, one of a number of exploits the app has suffered from since launching in 2009, and said the company would implement "stronger fixes" going forward. The popular app sold for only $1 and was said to be handling more than one billion messages per day.

In the meantime, the company is warning users about a pair of hoax e-mails that have been circulating about Whatsapp. On the company's blog, the developers say they have been getting copies of e-mails that claim both that Whatsapp is going to cost money "soon" unless users have at least 10 people on their chat list, and a different e-mail that uses the app as a front for a more standard "phishing" scam, claiming that if users don't forward the e-mail their account will be deleted (and "re-activation" will cost $25). The second one also claims that Whatapp will be shutting down at the end of January due to "an over usage of user names."

Both are false, says the company. Once the new version has been approved by Apple, the app is expected to be available again, but due to the way the App Store approval process works, developers often have little or no idea exactly when a revised app will be published. The blog post also hints at new features to be added in the next version. The company recently overhauled the UI design for the Blackberry version of the app.

It is still unusual, however, for a developer to pull the old version in the meantime, suggesting that other problems with the previous version may have been discovered. When it was available, Whatsapp sold for $1.

by MacNN Staff



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