Feature Article

January 20, 2016

What's up with WhatsApp: Ready for Business, a Billion Users, and Giving Itself Away

In a trifecta of announcements, the popular mobile messaging application WhatsApp shared some significant developments in its young, but rapidly-evolving story of growth and change. In its early days, the popular app was courted by tech companies all over the world; then Facebook acquired it in a $19 billion deal just a couple of years ago. Since that time, the app and its ecosystem have been allowed to grow without much pressure to make a profit or be concerned with business. That appears to be changing now, as the application is just a few days – and about 10 million users – from reaching 1 billion active users on the platform. The growth is coming in at a rate of about 1 million users per day, so that pinnacle of growth will be coming anytime now.

The other important development shared by the company is that the application will now be free. Up until now, the model allowed for free use for the first year, then would charge a 99 cent subscription for certain users. Finally, in what is perhaps the biggest component in the midst of these massive business milestones, the application will begin inviting businesses onto the network, and will shift to charging them in some yet undetermined fashion.

The business announcement has been anticipated for some time, as businesses have inquired about how to participate. WhatsApp has done a masterful job of building its massive user base and it now has a proven and widespread channel on which it could position before advertisers and marketing campaigns. However, the founders of the application have long expressed a desire to keep advertising from the network, so it remains to be seen how the company plans to monetize under this new shift in strategy. One possibility lies beyond traditional marketing and sales outreach as the platform could prove to be a valid and relevant customer support tool. This could customers to engage with companies in a very personal and mobile fashion.

The speculation on what the direction of WhatsApp will be will undoubtedly cover a range of possibilities. One billion users and a trajectory of continued growth are compelling reasons to keep watching this story.

Edited by Kyle Piscioniere

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