WhatsApp is a free instant messaging service for those using standard cellular mobile numbers to send text messages, voice calls, video calls, images, video and other media to each other.
The app was launched in January 2009, and was acquired by Facebook in 2014. By 2016, the app had reached a user base of 1 billion.
The idea for the app was incorporated by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, who were both former Yahoo! employees.
WhatsApp can be downloaded on iPhone, Android and other smartphones, and uses WiFi rather than your mobile phone plan, so if you have an internet connection, you can call someone using WhatsApp and not have to pay for it.
The messages that are sent across the app are end-to-end encrypted, meaning no-one but the sender and the recipient can read the messages.
Facebook purchased WhatsApp for $19billion (£14.15billion) in 2014, and at the time the messaging app had a user base of 400 million.
The acquisition raised some eyebrows at the fact that Facebook now had access to data that was contained in private messages.
WhatsApp founder Jan Koum, who is originally from Ukraine, wrote in a blog about WhatsApp and Facebook’s partnership about his childhood growing up in the USSR in the 80’s when they were not able to speak freely on the telephone as their communications were monitored by the KGB.
He said that respect for the WhatsApp users privacy was in their DNA.
In the early days of the app’s existence – if you can remember back to that stone age – WhatsApp was a pay-for app.
It cost users $1/£1 per year, or it was free for the first year and then it cost $1/£1 each subsequent year.
The absence of ads on WhatsApp is due to the fact that Acton and Koum, the app’s founders, left Yahoo! due to work relating to selling ads.
Every day 1 billion people use WhatsApp.
There are 1.3 billion monthly active users on the app.
200 million voice messages are sent on WhatsApp per day.
Users spend on average 195 minutes on the app each week.
The average user sends 1,200 message a month on WhatsApp.
There are 34 billion messages received daily on WhatsApp.
In January 2016 WhatsApp announced on their blog that they would be putting an end to subscription fees.
Charging people for yearly access to the app meant that their revenue was limited and it wasn’t a good long-term strategy to monetising the app.
WhatsApp assured users that the abolition of subscription fees didn’t mean there would be an introduction of third party ads, instead they would be testing tools that ‘allow you to use WhatsApp to communicate with businesses and organisations that you want to hear from.’
This meant getting messages from your bank about recent transactions via WhatsApp or getting a text about a delayed flight from your airline on WhatsApp.
With over 1 billion users actually using WhatsApp every day, the focus seems to be primarily on the user growth and making money from selling software and services.
In September 2017, WhatsApp announced that it would be working towards making WhatsApp a business friendly app saying ‘we want to apply what we’ve learned helping people connect with each other to helping people connect with businesses that are important to them.’
Right now WhatsApp are testing a free WhatsApp business app for small companies and an enterprise solution for bigger companies who operate at a large scale like airlines and banks.
Facebook has yet to make a substantial earning from WhatsApp, as other instant messaging apps like WeChat app have stormed ahead in that respect.
The Chinese instant message giant WeChat is owned by Tencent who boasted revenues of ￥151.9 billion (£171 billion) in 2016.
WeChat features a WePay feature that allows people to make transactions through the app, in 2016 WePay processed $50 million (£37.2 million) in bank transactions every month.
Forbes estimate that WhatsApp could make from $5 billion to over $15 billion in the coming years should it implement an effective monetisation strategy.