In the age of social media, we all desire one thing — to connect! Whether you are a single, middle aged motorcyclist, who is looking for love; or maybe you are a hip and upcoming high-tech company seeking fast and free promotion; and, of course, if you are a teenager who can type the address of their Facebook profile faster than I can type Jon Koum — who happens to be the founder of the world’s fastest growing social network, WhatsApp that will likely “eclipse all SMS traffic across the globe.” (Olson, 2014)
Last month I traveled to Chile to film a documentary. I traveled with my iPhone, though it wasn’t connected to a cellular network — when you are a starving grad school documentarian, you try to cut as many corners as humanly possible to save money — but I still could connect to WiFi for free. After a few days in the country, I was surprised to discover that while I would go to Starbucks to check what’s new on my Facebook page, my Chilean colleagues couldn’t take their fingers off of WhatsApp. I found it intriguing because I haven’t noticed it being much used in the US, specifically in the Chicagoland area.
WatsApp is a “cross-platform mobile messaging app which allows you to exchange messages without having to pay for SMS. WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia and yes, those phones can all message each other! Because WhatsApp Messenger uses the same internet data plan that you use for email and web browsing, there is no cost to message and stay in touch with your friends.” (WhatsApp website)
Another cool feature of WhatsApp is that it allows users to “create groups, send each other unlimited images, video and audio media messages”. And all this is FREE!
At least for the first year. And after a free year of service WhatsApp would charge a ridiculously low fee of $ 0.99 USD per year. But this is not even the best part! WhatsApp is golden because they DO NOT sell ads! (Koum, 2012)
On the company’s blog, Jon Koum writes: “When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads.” (WhatsApp website)
Image courtesy www.Forbes.com
My Chilean friends are a small drop in the 470 Million sea of worldwide WhatsApp users. As Olson reports in her Forbes article from March, 2014, “Pretty much everyone in Hong Kong with a smartphone uses WhatsApp. In United Arab Emirates you can watch WhatsApp Academy on TV. In the Netherlands, where 9.5 million people (more than half the population) actively use it, “Whatsappen” is now a verb in the Dutch dictionary, meaning to send a WhatsApp message. Brazil’s professional soccer players use its group-chat feature to organize labor strikes during games.”
The Funny thing is that the company has only 56 employees, and they don’t even have a sign on the door of its headquarters in Mountain View,” yet they are “one of the world’s most commonly used communication utilities after e-mail and the telephone and will introduce voice calling later this year.” (Olson, 2014)
So it’s no wonder that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg spent the past two years courting Koum in attempts to acquire WhatsApp, which has finally happened in February this year. No one is really surprised Zuckerberg was so head over heels for WhatsApp. After all, it “has been signing up a million new users per day since Dec. 1, 2013.” (Olson, 2014)
I guess Zuck was so up for WhatsApp that he didn’t even care Koum’s interruption during Zuckerberg’s “Valentine’s dinner with his wife, Priscilla.” Koum came by the Mark;s house, saying he agrees to the deal, and “The two hammered out pricing and terms over chocolate covered strawberries.” (Carlson, 2014)
Koum, J. (2012, June 18). WhatsApp. Why we don’t sell ads. Retrieved June 24, 2014,
Carlson, N. (2014, February 19). The Inside Story Of How Facebook Bought WhatsApp
For $19 Billion. Business Insider: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-story-of-facebooks-whatsapp-buy-2014-2#ixzz35a17enm8. . Retrieved June 24, 2014, from http://www.whatsapp.comhttp://www.businessinsider.com/the-story-of-facebooks-whatsapp-buy-2014-2
Olson, P. (2014, March 4). Inside The Facebook-WhatsApp Megadeal: The Courtship,
The Secret Meetings, The $19 Billion Poker Game. Forbes. Retrieved June 24, 2014, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/parmyolson/2014/03/04/inside-the-facebook-whatsapp-megadeal-the-courtship-the-secret-meetings-the-19-billion-poker-game/2/