About an hour ago, Mark Zuckerberg announced on his Facebook page that his company was buying WhatsApp, a cross-platform, non-SMS messaging app that’s gaining a million new users every day. According to a report from Reuters, Facebook is ponying up a whopping $19 billion in cash and stock, a hefty sum when contrasted with Facebook’s failed attempt to buy Snapchat back in November for the already absurd (but now paltry-seeming) sum of $3 billion. It would seem that Zuckerberg wasn’t interested in being told ‘no.’
Zuckerberg’s post explains that the acquisition was part of the company’s mission “to make the world more open and connected,” and that WhatsApp and its entire staff—now a part of the Facebook family—won’t be fully integrated into the social network itself, even if it’s owned by the company:
“WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook. The product roadmap will remain unchanged and the team is going to stay in Mountain View. Over the next few years, we’re going to work hard to help WhatsApp grow and connect the whole world. We also expect that WhatsApp will add to our efforts forInternet.org, our partnership to make basic internet services affordable for everyone.”
You’d be forgiven for scratching your head at the name WhatsApp. The company’s been growing since its formation back in 2009, but its popularity seems to have exploded in the summer of 2012. According to this post on TheNextWeb, the app jumped from handling two billion messages in April of that year to ten billion that same August. The app is free to try for a year (and a buck a year after that) and offers users messaging over Wi-Fi or mobile data networks without dipping into a carrier’s SMS or MMS fees.
It would seem that Facebook is looking to grab onto any teenagers who sense the smell of “uncool” that’s been gathering ever since the social network opened its doors to everyone, rather than just students. Now that your mom and dad and even your teachers are on Facebook, it’s not the exclusive-feeling place it used to be. Reports have been gathering steam that the young among us have been abandoning Facebook, or simply never signing up in the first place, preferring messaging apps like the aforementioned Snapchat and, apparently, WhatsApp.
Now that the latter is in the Facebook fold, will anything change? Will users be motivated to link their WhatsApp accounts with their Facebook profiles? More likely, WhatsApp will simply turn its demographic data over to Facebook in its never-ending quest to make sure everyone is Facebook friends with Mark Zuckerberg.