Ask people what app they prefer the most when it comes to sending messages to people the world over, and the chances are that one in every seven people on average will be shouting WhatsApp. This should explain the level of proliferation that the messaging service has achieved, which stands at over a billion users that now owe allegiance to WhatsApp.
“We’re honored to be a small part of what people are doing to make their lives and the lives of those around them better,” stated WhatsApp in a statement sharing the excitement over having made it this big.
The milestone has been reached in just seven years that the app was launched and in just two years since it was acquired by Facebook in a deal worth $19 billion. However, with one billion among its registered users, the company has stated their real challenge will be to reach out to the next six billion. And the main deterrent here could be the lack of enough internet coverage the world over.
That is where Facebook’s other venture; Internet.org comes into the venture though more on that as well as opposition to it has been discussed later.
The app has also evolved over the years since Jan Koum and Brian Acton, both ex-Yahoo engineers first launched the service seven years ago. Apart from text messages, the app also allows its users to make voice calls over the internet bypassing the carriers. Video calling too might be added in future, something that is already available in Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s own messaging service.
The feat has also been achieved in just about a few weeks that the service has been made completely free though several plans are being considered to keep funding the business. One plan being mooted is that WhatsApp will be charging companies each time they make a call or send a message to their customers via the app.
The above works both ways in that customers calling up the airlines to book a ticket or ordering pizzas will be free of cost. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg though said they are considering introducing ads to make up for the cost of running the service.
“Only once you have that ramped up to a good scale can you really start dialing up advertising,” said Zuckerberg in a conference call after announcing the fourth quarter results.
Zuckerberg further stated they intend to follow the same strategy as they did while introducing ads to Instagram, which sought to strike the right balance of business gaining enough exposure while ensuring users not getting cowed down with the ads.
As for Facebook Messenger, the app too is on a roll even if it is on a slightly smaller scale than WhatsApp. To put that in figures, its user base has grown to 800 million strong which makes it along with WhatsApp the next big cash cows for Zuckerberg to look forward to.
Analysts have also been predicting the likely merger of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, which will further bolster their presence in the online messaging business. While there is no information on this front available as yet, something on these lines can’t be ruled out in the near future.
The above developments also come at a time when Facebook’s Internet.org program has also been facing the heat from several groups worldwide over its alleged violation of net neutrality norms. The social networking company had been vigorously pursuing its Internet.org program which aims to bring more users under the ambit of internet services by making available basic internet facilities to the poor and downtrodden free of cost. This also includes several sites and services to be available to the poor. Advocates of net neutrality though consider those to be insecure given that Internet.org is not yet compliant with https encryption methods. Also, they claim discriminating between the poor and others is completely against the ethos of net neutrality.
Zuckerberg defended his move claiming he is aiming to strike a balance between universal connectivity and net neutrality which he said should and must coexist.
“To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all,” said Zuckerberg to those who are critical of his Internet.org venture.