Rakuten, the largest e-commerce site in Japan has acquired Viber for $900 million to expand its digital empire.

The Japanese company Rakuten has announced today the acquisition of Viber Media, a popular messaging service platform, for $900 million. The acquisition will help fortify Rakuten’s footprint in the digital content space with its other acquisitions, such as Kobo, Wuaki.tv and Viki. The acquisition of Viber though will help keep Rakuten’s focus on rapid growth of its global membership and Internet services ecosystem.

Rakuten is one of the largest Internet companies in the world based out of Japan. They are known as an electronic commerce company and is the largest electronic commerce site located in Japan, which is one of the top amongst the world in sales with revenues totaled at $4.7 billion and operating profits of about $770 million. Since 2005, Rakuten has been acquiring and moving up through joint ventures with other companies to help build its online presence and fortify its name across the Internet. With over 40 different services offered, such as electronic commerce, eBooks, travel, banking, securities, credit cards, electronic money, logistics, portal and media, online marketing and professional sports, Rakuten has built one of the world’s most robust and dynamic Internet services ecosystems centered around a unified ID membership database that features the enormously popular and successful online Rakuten Super Points rewards program. Rakuten currently holds investments in Pinterest, Ozon.ru, AHA Life and Daily Grommet. (Rakuten helped Pinterest get valued in May 2012 to $1.5 billion with $100 million investment alongside Horowitz, Bessemer Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital.)

CEO of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani, and CEO of Viber Media, Talman Marco, take picture together on the announcement of acquisition
CEO of Rakuten, Hiroshi Mikitani, and CEO of Viber Media, Talman Marco, take picture together on the announcement of acquisition

Rakuten began its hold in digital content in 2012 with the acquisition of Kobo Inc, which is one of the world’s fastest growing eBook services, that offers books, magazines and newspapers to its customers in 190 different countries. After that purchase, Rakuten moved into acquire an innovative European video streaming service that they have expanded farther than its current reach entering new markets outside of its original base located in Spain. In 2013, Rakuten purchased Viki, a digital content platform that now reaches 65 percent of its 30 million users through mobile devices.

Viber is a proprietary cross-platform instant messaging and VoIP that allows for everyone to be able to connect to each other freely over the use of the Internet. In addition to text messaging, users can exchange images, video and audio media messages as well. The service was initially launched for the iPhone on December 2, 2010, in direct competition with Skype. The service then expanded to Android in May 2011 with restricted access that was changed to full access on July 19, 2012. On May 8, 2012 Viber released the application for both Windows Phone and Blackberry. Once they reached 90 million users the released the HD Voice engine and apps for Nokia’s Series 40, Symbian and Samsung’s Bada platform. Even though the application was entirely set to be on a mobile platform, the company, Viber Media, decided to release the app for Windows, Windows 8 and Mac OS X, though you need to have the app on your smartphone or other suitable mobile device. Finally in December 2013, Viber officially announced Viber Out, a feature that allows all users to have the option to call mobile and landline numbers (to use the new feature, users have to visit the More tab and choose Viber out). With over 200 million users in over 193 countries, a 120 percent growth since 2013 and a ton of room to innovate, Viber has shown that it has been creating a strong hold in the online communication sector of the Internet. Viber hopes to grow to be the number one communication platform out there.

Viber is expected to grow substantially with Rakuten’s acquisition as the company has over 225 million global members. Viber is a perfect member to join Rakuten’s already robust digital content offerings as Rakuten builds its foundation to be the world’s most comprehensive and engaging daily online platform. With Viber’s fun approach to messaging and high quality VoIP services, it fits in total alignment with the focus on rapid growth of its global membership and Internet services ecosystem.

Rakuten Chairman and CEO, Hiroshi Mikitani, commented earlier in the press release today:

“I am tremendously excited to welcome Viber to the Rakuten family. Viber delivers the most consistently high quality and convenient messaging and VoIP experience available. Additionally, Viber has introduced a great sticker market and has tremendous potential as a gaming platform. Simply put, Viber understands how people actually want to engage and have built the only service that truly delivers on all fronts. This makes Viber the ideal total consumer engagement platform for Rakuten as we seek to bring our deep understanding of the consumer to vast new audiences through our dynamic ecosystem of Internet Services.”

Viber CEO and Founder, Talmon Marco can be quoted to say from the press release earlier today:

“Rakuten is one of the world’s most important Internet companies. It is truly dominant in its home market of Japan and has been rapidly expanding globally. This combination presents an amazing opportunity for Viber to enhance our rapid user growth in both existing and new markets. Sharing similar aspirations with Rakuten, our vision is to be the world’s No.1 communications platform and our combination with Rakuten is an important step in that direction.”

What does this mean for you, the user?

As of right now nothing is set to change for the company or the application itself. Viber will continue to work as well as before. Viber will continue to operate under the same team that has been running the service for over the last year. You will still be able to use Viber over the multitude of operating systems that you already use it on.

There has been no announcement made for any of services to change and as Viber has been a free service as of right now it is still set to be a free service. You can still download the app for free on any of the operating systems that you enjoy using the most.

Viber is still available for iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry, Windows, Windows 8, Mac, Linux, Symbian, Nokia S40 and Bada.

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