39 thoughts on “WhatsApp is Different”

  1. It’s really refreshing to see a statistical (i.e. non-anecdotal) analysis of a popular application. This was a really interesting article, welcome to the Freshly Pressed club! 🙂

    1. That’s like saying Gmail and Google search and YouTube are the same. Sure, all three are tied together with Google Plus, but they’re clearly different.

  2. Great article. Nothing really new but seeing the data on these charts does give one a sense of the scale of growth. The scale is hard to fathom for internet oldies like us.

    Mobile data with its hockey stick curve is going to also produce hockey stick curves for mobile-first apps that become popular. The number of mobile users simply dwarfs computers and broadband.
    It’s interesting because we thought that Google search ruled the world. Now we’re finding out that the entire browser interface is 10% of the market. 90% is up for grabs and only getting filled in just now.

    That’s even worse news for Microsoft – the previous king of the world is now king of an irrelevant platform.

  3. ‘A reader emailed and point out that WhatsApp initial success was because it “spent time building for platforms that were not sexy – Blackberry, j2me, Early android OS” and it “grew internationally once SMS fees started creeping up and first set of cheap prepaid data plans showed up.”’

    That’s a great theory, it’s just demonstrably incorrect. Its early success was iOS-only — other platforms came later. And in the time since WhatsApp launched, I’ve seen no evidence of SMS fees “creeping up”, if anything, they’ve gone down, thanks to the competitive assault from all sides (WhatsApp, BBM, Facebook messenger, iMessage, etc.).

  4. This is such a informational blog here… It’s very interesting.. worth keeping bookmark for it..!!

    1. These are all publicly available numbers from various news reports and other sources such as research reports.

  5. The problem is customer stickiness. These massive number of users generate very little revenue. There is very little tying them to the platform other than each other.

    Attempts to monetize those users run a high risk of alienating many of them causing them to leave for another platform. This created a cascade effect of migration.

    While being able to buy access to such a large number of users is potentially worth a lot, you can’t recoup your investment on hopes and dreams. They have to be monetized.

    They only need to return $5 per user per year for ~10 years to get their money back. Seems easy enough. However right now they charge some users $1 a year and have no ads. Given the supposed terms of the deal, advertising seems to not even be possible for some time, at least. They certainly aren’t going to raise the yearly fee 500% or more. Either of those things would cause a large percentage of those 450 million users to vaporize.

    Let us not forget these are not all first world users. As harsh as it is to say, it does mean a substantial part of those 450 million users are worth less, from a monetization standpoint, I know Zuckerberg has plans with Internet.org but I still have a hard time seeing how paying 19 billion dollars for a userbase that is connected on the thinnest of strings is going to end up being an investment that ever pays for itself financially. From a traditional financial standpoint each of these users has to generate four or more dollars PROFIT each year. Technology investments have traditionally looked for even smaller windows than ten years. A five year roi would require $9 plus per year, per user in profit.

    1. Nice points Dordor. But if one assumes that WhatsApp continues to grow at a very fast pace, the $5 threshold you set drops very quickly. I don’t think this works out, but if WhatsApp gets to a billion users then it does.

      And keep in mind Facebook is using Facebook stock, they are in essence doubling down but they aren’t really taking on new risk.

  6. Interesting. It make sense in a sort of approach. However I wonder whether it needs some other views… What about the direct competitors? It looks like we are comparing different elements, but it is really interesting

  7. So, they’re buying us, really, co-opting rivals for our eyeballs, with their own stock? What are the tech billionaires building here? And who is it there for?

  8. Stilted commentary, as usual from Om. How about the miracle of craiglist who employs a limited number of people? Or the fact that WhatsApp can be railroaded by any number of competitors, including the service providers, manufacturers and others? Pls though, buy into the bullshit hockey stick graphs. Wait, people worldwide are increasingly using the internet AND are signing up faster for this app than for services that reached less 5-10 years ago? SIGN ME UP. What about the other messaging apps which are comparable in size? Why don’t they appear in your graphs (hint: it makes the graphs look weak). Here’s to your exit from other media!

    1. Nick

      If you would be so kind — find me the numbers of other messaging apps you talk about and share them with me and rest of the world. It would be useful for all of us. To be clear, the charts are essentially a look at how things have changed and are changing, thanks to the emergence of mobile broadband and its impact on adoption. Clearly, you have a good grasp on all that, so it is appropriate you find them less than useful. I would say, your time might be better spent elsewhere where things are more to your liking.

  9. Wow the numbers are staggering! And good for them, good for Google, good for the guys who come up with these ingenious marvels of technology!

  10. I’m a constant Whatsapp user. I’m not exactly thrilled with Facebook’s acquisition- WhatsApp is pretty huge on its own and Facebook’s popularity has been dwindling in the last year. The demograph here is obviously just my social circle but I can tell you based on my observations that WhatsApp really is very popular and user-friendly. No wonder their charts are unprecedented

  11. I’m noticing a trend.

    Most of the present day growth hackers (such as Whatsapp) had a hard-on experience in operations of former growth hackers (such as RIM’s Blackberry).

    We look forward to more cheaper data – internationally… and also more strategic acquisitions that may become future threats to the survival and relevance of the big boys.

    Come to think of this… will Facebook become the next Google [acting on fear]?

  12. What is “monthly active users” measuring? in the case of Google, is that Google+? ‘Cause I believe they have ~1 billion unique users per month for their search engine, and they definitely don’t have >1million employees.

  13. “Since Whatsapp uses very little bandwidth, ‘carriers started taking notice and instead of pitching full data packages, started unbundling data and started offering WhatsApp packages.'” — Which is a violation of net neutrality. Whatsapp is different.

    1. Sumocat it is actually not — not in countries where they have these deals. India has very different rules for networks and how bandwidth gets charged for.

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