Facebook made news yesterday in a move to buy the instant messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash, stock and restricted shares. In the past five years, WhatsApp has become a stunningly popular app letting users send text, pictures, voice recordings and video messages to fellow users, while also providing the ability to set up status updates and organize contacts. Because WhatsApp works through mobile broadband, users do not pay the SMS texting fees cell phone carriers often have in their phone contracts. WhatsApp’s Co-Founder Jan Koum has kept a note on his desk reading, “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!” – a testament to how simple WhatsApp has been so far for its users.
WhatsApp has nearly 450 million active users worldwide and most of them are outside the United States. However, Facebook most likely values WhatsApp’s huge popularity among younger users who are increasingly using group texting applications to communicate with friends at a rapid pace, and we imagine it values the data acquired as part of the purchase. While Facebook is already able to capitalize on the wealth of information users post about themselves on their profiles and timelines, messaging applications like WhatsApp can provide even greater access to user information through the conversations they have on the platform. What does this mean for organizers? We hope it will be good news as the mobile messaging ecosystem continues to evolve.
Mobile messaging is evolving quickly, in part due to the reluctance of wireless carriers to evolve their own text messaging gateways. Scott enjoyed reminding us of his own 2014 prediction when the news broke yesterday. What he predicted was that, “Cell Phone carriers in the US will change their behavior on governing standard message rate SMS for mass texting. There are so many forms of messenger services getting into the mobile space that the way we message each other will evolve. Newer technology will continue to erode the US cell phone carriers’ monopoly on mobile messaging.” If yesterday’s news doesn’t push carriers to take faster action on messaging, nothing will.