In a headline, or on paper, it sounds preposterous that Facebook spent $19 billion for WhatsApp. That incredible sum is unfathomable for 99.999 percent of human beings. For Mark Zuckerberg, however, and his huge network of Silicon Valley besties, the purchase is just another day at the office. Another “like” toward comprehensive domination over what every human across the Earth does and says. The biggest social network in existence now has the most popular messaging platform we’ve ever seen. And it’s about to get bigger.
Facebook is a ubiquitous online monarch, ever-present as we update our status, post pictures and share links. Most everyone has tried it—and if they haven’t tried it, they’ve at least heard of it. And while it’s more popular than it has ever been, Facebook’s growth has actually become a concern. It’s no longer the new cool thing, and therefore all the tweens across the Internet are abandoning the platform for the next addictive communication service. That’s exactly what WhatsApp is. At 450 million users strong—and adding 1 million per day—the service’s projection of growth is off the charts. Engagement on the platform is actually higher on WhatsApp than it is on Facebook, Zuckerberg said following the acquisition.
Facebook has tried very hard to make its platform feel fresh over the past several months, offering a ton of spinoff apps in an attempt to keep users inside its vast ecosystem. But one thing Facebook didn’t have, which Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged, is messaging. Sure, it has an actual Messaging app, letting you connect with other Facebook users, but Zuckerberg admitted WhatsApp is a more immediate experience. Whereas Facebook Messaging is like email (Zuckerberg’s words), something you don’t respond to right away, WhatsApp is more present.
One of WhatsApp’s biggest assets, aside from its enormous user base, is its cross-platform availability. The app itself is clean and dead simple to use, and offers a ton of functionality for something so simple. You’d think a company as big as Facebook would be able to create an adequate messaging service on its own, but WhatsApp went and did it instead. For context, WhatsApp’s 450 million active users is double that of Twitter’s, which is around 215 million. That’s hugely important for Facebook’s continued growth—and it means WhatsApp is no longer the competition.
If you’ve never used the platform, WhatsApp gives users the ability to send media (video, pictures, voice), group chat, set a personal profile, and it’s incredibly easy to set up because it works with phone numbers, meaning no username or PIN. Additionally, it uses data to send messages, meaning you don’t need to waste (or even pay) for SMS. WhatsApp includes a number of other amazing features, too, such as the ability to share you location, exchange contacts and more.
There are a ton of alternative messaging clients out there, but WhatsApp is basically now the heavyweight champion of the world. With WhatsApp under its belt, Facebook has another tool to serve a huge demographic of users—we saw the same thing happen when it purchased Instagram. Both are excellent ways for people all around the world to communicate. Zuckerberg has always maintained Facebook is meant to connect the world’s people, and WhatsApp is another tool to help the social network achieve that.