The very biggest tech news this month may very well be Facebook buying WhatsApp for a very cool $19 billion.
“A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? $1 billion.” — Mark Zuckerberg
If $1 billion is cool, $19 billion is downright hot. So what made WhatsApp so hot?
What Is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a mobile app for messaging that you can use instead of your standard text messaging service with your cell phone carrier. With WhatsApp you can send free messages to other WhatsApp users no matter:
- which cell phone service you use
- which cell phone you use
- where in the world you are
WhatsApp has 450 million active users per month and reached that number faster than any other service.
WhatsApp is free for the first year, then costs 99¢/year after that. The cost is low enough so that everyone can afford it but keeps the spammers and idle users away, freeing up the service for those who care enough to spend 99¢.
While the price of using the app is small, the revenue is large enough to allow the developer to offer the service ad-free. See, WhatsApp, Why We Don’t Sell Ads.
Why Use WhatsApp?
When you use WhatsApp, you don’t have to worry about going over your text messaging plan, whether your friend is on iMessage, BlackBerry Messenger or other proprietary messaging service.
You can send files for free, including photos, videos, music and voice messages. Even unlimited text messaging plans may charge you for sending these files via text message. You can also share your location and contact information using WhatsApp.
Many carriers in the US charge per text message or charge high fees for unlimited plans. When we returned to the US from the UK, I originally bought a plan for my teenage daughter that allowed 200 free text messages per month (with 25¢/text over 200). A few days later I realized my folly, cancelled the plan and returned her phone to the store, opting for a different carrier that offered unlimited texting in a lower priced plan.
Popularity begets popularity. Because WhatsApp was one of the first alternative text messaging apps launching in May 2009, it quickly gained a broad audience, making more likely that those joining already had friend using the app.
How to Use WhatsApp
WhatsApp is simple to use. WhatsApp uses your cell phone number so you don’t have to figure out what your friends’ user ID for the app is. When you download the app, you confirm your cell phone number and allow the app to access your contacts.
WhatsApp confirms your cell phone number with a text message that contains the confirmation code. Tap on that code or enter it in the keypad with the app.
You’re greeted with a Welcome page and then invited to add your name, a profile photo and connect to your Facebook account.
WhatsApp finds your contacts who are using WhatsApp and lets you create a Favorites List. You can also create Groups for chats with multiple friends.
The WhatsApp Journey
Curious about how WhatsApp grew from $0 to $19 billion in under 5 years? Check out this infographic illustrating the meteoric growth of WhatsApp:
See, The Awesome Daily, 11 Things That Are Cheaper Than Whatsapp (including Iceland).
Do you use WhatsApp? Have you been looking for a free messaging app? Do you think Facebook made a wise investment? Do you wish you had invented WhatsApp? Let us know in the Comments section below!
Google Earth Celebrates Polar Bear Day!
In honor of International Polar Bear Day, Google Earth released 360° photos from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, the Polar Bear Capital of the World.
If you can tolerate seeing amazing pictures of snow (and if you live in an area that has had a harsh winter, you may not be able to), check these out:
Head to Google Earth to see these amazing views in their 360° beauty.