WhatsApp Cloud API or Business API: which one to choose?
September 14, 2022 — by Nael C.
6 min read
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Meta ,Formerly Known as Facebook, released the WhatsApp Cloud API on May 19, 2022. This means businesses looking to leverage their WhatsApp communication can choose between the Сloud API and WhatsApp Business API, making it a bit tricky for those unfamiliar with the WhatsApp ecosystem to make a choice.
Important: although one programming interface might seem more cost-effective or feature-rich, the ideal choice depends heavily on use cases and what the business aims to achieve. For example, the cloud API’s cost-effectiveness and features might seem suitable for a small business. Still, it won’t be a good fit for enterprises in the Automotive, Finance, or Fintech sectors. And while the WhatsApp Cloud API might be good enough for a small convenience store, a big supermarket chain would benefit more from the WhatsApp Business API.
The WhatsApp Cloud API has its unique specs and features. It is not a replacement for the Business API but another option for developers with different use cases or goals.
You can read more about the features and which ones suit your business below.
The Business API is based on the on-premise REST API protocol. In contrast, the WhatsApp Cloud API is based on the Facebook Graph API. Facebook’s graph API is a proprietary API that encompasses most Meta products, including Instagram and WhatsApp. The Graph API is the primary way to get data into and out of the Facebook platform. It’s an HTTP-based API that apps can use to programmatically query data, post new stories, manage ads, upload photos, and perform a wide variety of other tasks.
It’s important to note that the Graph API is not GraphQL, as some might think.
Meta (Formerly Facebook) has developed GraphQL as an open-source data query and manipulation language for APIs. That is to overcome some limitations REST had, like over-fetching data (getting more information than needed). However, Graph API does not encompass GraphQL, and the two are not related. Graph API is a REST API.
What does this mean for non-developers?
If you have a small business looking for simple API integration that you can build yourself or are dealing with a software vendor whose solution is compatible with the WhatsApp cloud API, then the Cloud API might be a good fit for you.
But it’s important to consider that some software vendors haven’t yet adapted their solutions to the Cloud API. That is due to the WhatsApp Cloud API’s recency and limited support from Meta. If you choose the Cloud API, you might have limited choices when looking for a ready-to-use team inbox, integration, or automation solution.
Most ISV solutions, like shared inboxes, chatbots, and CRM integrations, have partnerships with BSPs such as 360dialog, which provides excellent premium support, documentation, and guidance. Most BSPs provide businesses with the Business API only, but some do provide a Cloud API too or will release their own in the future.
The Cloud API is more cost-effective, while the Business API represents the premium model that features premium support and regional hosting that comes with extra layers of security. Here are some more details about the costs:
360dialog charges a flat fee for a monthly subscription that covers:
- Unlimited session messages and conversations
- The first 1000 conversations each month are free
- Possibility to get access to a team inbox or integrations from partners with a special discount
- There are special prices and discounts for partners and specific regions. Check the price plans here.
- Support with 24h SLA
- Community support
- Regional hosting is available for an additional fee (Starting from €10)
On the other hand, with the cloud API Meta:
- There’s a limit of 1,000 conversations per month, then businesses are charged by meta based on conversations. Check the price rates here
- No SLA for disaster recovery
- Free hosting by Meta
Regarding the WhatsApp Business API, the API software is hosted by BSPs on their own servers and data servers. At 360dialog, for example, we provide Local & Regional hosting according to GDPR laws. On the other hand, the cloud API is hosted by Meta servers in North America and is GDPR compliant.
It’s important to remember that API users are not only individuals but businesses and applications whose daily operations rely heavily on the API. Therefore, you should host an API somewhere reliable and stable.
Also, it’s important to consider proximity if you are a local business or targeting a specific geographic area. When it comes to the WhatsApp Business API, the Send Message Request Processing Latency depends on the proximity of the servers provided by the BSP. On the other hand, with the WhatsApp Cloud API, here are the expected latencies as specified by Facebook:
- 90th percentile: ~1s
- 99th percentile: ~2s
It means that the Cloud API’s hosting doesn’t suit big businesses or enterprises that deal with a large volume of messages weekly or daily.
Throughput of messages per second
Currently, the Cloud API supports 80 messages per second (MPS) for sending and receiving messages. The WhatsApp Cloud API will soon support up to 250 messages as of July 2022. On the other hand, the business API already supports 250 messages per second.
Business API subscribers can manage their own Certificate Authority (CA) and Webhook CA certificates. A CA is a trusted entity that issues SSL certificates used by web browsers, for example, to ensure trust in online content by authenticating content sent from web servers.
For the Cloud API, Meta manages the CA certificates. Also, your Webhooks server needs to support HTTPS and have a valid CA-chained TLS/SSL certificate installed for you to get a Webhook CA certificate. It’s important to note that the Cloud API does not support self-signed certificates.
Media and Stickerpack Support
The WhatsApp Business API supports both media provider API and Stickerpack Management API. However, when it comes to the cloud API, the Stickerpack Management API is not supported currently. Also, the media management API is deprecated, and there are specific steps you should complete to upload media to the cloud.
Cloud API vs. Business API
There is no final verdict regarding this matter, and it all comes down to use cases and the company size, as mentioned earlier. The Cloud API seems ideal for small businesses that don’t deal with a large volume of messages and just want to send messages to clients that opted in. However, for enterprises and companies that are looking forward to heavily using the API while ensuring that any transaction or exchange of information is entirely secure, the Business API is the ideal solution. Moreover, by dealing with a BSP such as 360dialog, you gain a lot of perks, especially if you are an enterprise or a software vendor looking for a partnership. Softwares vendors, for example, can get special discounts and access to our partner API, where they can track their clients’ signups and statuses.
The table below summarizes the key differences between the WhatsApp Cloud API and the Business API.