So what is WhatsApp? Meet the messaging app that Facebook bought for $19bn

450 million users were just bought for roughly $42 a head - but what does WhatsApp do anyway?

WhatsApp is a messaging app that was founded in 2009 by two former Yahoo employees, Brian Acton and Jan Koum. Last year it reported revenue of just $20 million and yesterday it was bought by Facebook for $19 billion.

WhatsApp is one of a number of messaging apps that have taken advantage of data plans on smartphones to provide a practically free alternative to texting. The service costs nothing for the first year and is $1 a year thereafter, letting users swap text, pictures and audio clips, as well as set up group chats.

Read more: This is why Facebook paid $19 billion for WhatsApp

Currently WhatsApp has 450 million active users and is adding roughly a million a day, with most of their growth coming from Europe and Asia. These are key markets for development and this is undoubtedly one of the main reasons Facebook bought the company.

Although WhatsApp is the largest app of its kind it has plenty of regional rivals, most of them based in Asia. There’s Line (started in Japan with 340 million registered users; a figure that is generally more inflated than active users), Kakao Talk (South Korean, with 133 million registered users), and WeChat (China’s dominant messaging app with 272 million monthly active users).

Unusually for an internet company WhatsApp is very hostile to advertising. This accounts for both its low revenues and its popularity with users. CEO Jan Koum has three rules for the company that serve to distinguish it from its rivals: no ads, no games, and no gimmicks. The company's engineers spend all of their time on improving the service, not monetizing it and they don't spend a penny on marketing.

This puts WhatsApp directly in contrast with the sort of monetization that rivals such as Line have embraced. The company reported revenue in the fourth quarter of last year of ¥12.2 billion (£7.21 billion) just from purchases made in videogame tied to the app and add-ons like ‘stickers’ – complex emoticons that are bought in packs.

Interestingly, one of WhatsApp's co-founders, Brian Acton, was turned down for a job by Facebook in 2009. After the acquisition Forbes estimated that Acton is now worth at least $3 billion.

Danny Cipriani of England breaks clear to score his second try
Life and Style
New research says leaving your desk can help you to avoid serious illness
Arts and Entertainment
tvSPOILER ALERT: Like a mash-up of 28 Days Later, Braveheart, The Killing and Lord of the Rings, this GoT episode was a belter
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Recruitment Genius: Graduate Trainee

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Cloud ERP Solution Provide...

    Recruitment Genius: Lead Developer - ASP.Net / C# / MVC / JavaScript / HTML5

    £55000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is looking for a Lea...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer

    £45000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Engineer is requi...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral