Flick through the business pages of any newspaper and you will see countless stories about acquisitions and takeovers but few of them get people talking quite so much as those involving technology companies.
It is as if the dotcom bubble had never grown to circus-like proportions and burst so dramatically as it did at the turn of the 21st century, ruining companies such as Boo.com and Pets.com in the process.
So it is today that we turn on to news that Facebook has bought WhatsApp in a deal worth $19 billion. It beats, by some margin, the $1 billion the social network paid for the photo-sharing service Instagram. It is also close to tripling the $7.2 billion fee that Microsoft agreed with Nokia for its entire mobile phone business.
But this is good news. WhatsApp was launched five years ago by Americans Brian Acton and Jan Koum, both having decided to leave their jobs at Yahoo! and go it alone. Their mission was a simple one: “building a cool product used globally by everyone.” “Nothing else,” they say, “mattered to us.”
That they achieved their aim is enough cause for celebration. Their “over-the-top” messaging service can be used on any smartphone without users having to eat up text allowances. They have a user base of 400 million each month. A million new users sign up each day. But now Acton and Koum are rich beyond their dreams - just like Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger before them.
READ MORE: WHAT IS WHATSAPP AND WHAT DOES IT DO?
What this does is inspire hope. It shows that a good, attractive and well-implemented idea will be rewarded in some way, either through cold hard cash or through popularity. It drives pioneers and entrepreneurs, whether in Silicon Valley or in London's Silicon Roundabout, and it helps to push them forwards.
They see bids like this one succeeding and their jaws drop. Equally, they hear about the people behind the photo messaging app SnapChat rejecting Facebook's $3 billion advance and they know that there is a chance they can also make it big alone.
As a result, we're seeing innovation and challenges. The WhatsApp developers didn't just create a messaging service, they grew it into an effective rival to Facebook which is undoubtedly why it decided to step in with an offer. The ability to create groups within WhatsApp, for example, turned it into a social network in its own right. This in turn inspired other people to have a go- such as Hike which offers offline and push-to-talk messaging (like walkie-talkies).
10 surprising facts you didn’t know about Facebook
10 surprising facts you didn’t know about Facebook
1/10 Facebook’s logo is blue because Mark Zuckerberg is red-green colour blind. “Blue is the richest color for me. I can see all of blue," said Zuckerberg in an interview with the New Yorker. The colour is so popular that Facebook’s campus store even sells nail polish in the exact shade named ‘social butterfly blue’.
2/10 You can browse Facebook upside down. Facebook currently supports more than 70 different languages – including English (Pirate) and English (Upside Down). Check the bottom of the column on the right of your newsfeed and click your current language to change!
3/10 Zuckerberg's famously low-key wardrobe (either a grey t-shirt or a hoodie) is so that the CEO saves time deciding what to wear each day. However, Zuckerberg is known to dress up when the occasion demands it. For a 2011 event with Barack Obama he showed up in a suit, with the president introducing himself by saying: “I’m Barack Obama and I’m the guy who got Mark to wear a jacket and tie.”
4/10 In July 2006 Zuckerberg turned down a $1 billion offer for the site from Yahoo. He was 22 years old at the time and owned 25 per cent of the company. Zuckerberg reportedly turned it down by saying “I don't know what I could do with the money. I'd just start another social networking site. I kind of like the one I already have.” He definitely made the right choice: Facebook is now valued at $135 billion.
5/10 Around 350 million photos are uploaded to Facebook every day, with the site estimating in September last year that users had so far put up more than 250 billion images. That’s 4,000 photos uploaded every second and around 4 per cent of all photos ever taken, according to a study by Nokia.
6/10 Following the financial crisis of 2008 and 2009 Iceland decided to rewrite their constitution using Facebook to solicit suggestions from citizens. Unfortunatelye, despite this forward thinking approach, the document was killed by politicians in mid-2013 for various (mostly technical) reasons.
7/10 A YouGov poll claimed that three-quarter of UK Facebook users' photos showed someone drinking or inebriated. However, the poll did ask users to estimate the number of boozy snaps themselves, and like all things on Facebook, there might have been an element of exaggeration involved.
8/10 Zuckerberg isn’t much of a Twitter fan. Despite having nearly three hundred thousand followers on the service he’s only tweeted 19 times - once in 2012 and the rest in 2009. Although Facebook dwarfs twitter in terms of active users (1 billion compared with 200 million by some accounts) the micro-blogging site handles breaking news better. Facebook has introduced trending topics and hashtags to counter this.
9/10 Facebook operates a bounty hunter program – for bugs. Like many other big technology companies Facebook offers cash rewards to security researchers who point out flaws in the site’s code. The minimum payout is $500 and the largest prize to date has been $33,500.
10/10 More than a third of divorce filings in 2011 referenced Facebook, said a survey from UK-based legal firm Divorce Online. The exact figures may be an estimate, but with just under 8 trillion Facebook messages sent in 2013 it’s certain that a substantial body of evidence is to be found on the social network.
This keeps everyone on their toes. Those small companies that grow big know they have to keep looking over their shoulder just in case two people in a garage come up with something that takes the world by storm. Investors become more willing to take a gamble on the little people who believe their idea will be a winner.
So nobody rests and, if they do, they are found wanting. Facebook learned this the hard way when it was slow to latch on to the growing numbers of smartphone users. It launched an iPhone website in 2007, the same year that Apple launched its smartphone and an app came a year later but it is only recently that it has started to take advantage of the many features a smartphone has to offer.
As well as acquiring other companies, it is now looking to develop its own initiatives, even if it that means borrowing some ideas. The new Paper app has been very well received, following the likes of Feedly with a news reader fromat that actually makes far better smartphone use of Facebook. It also updated its Android app last month so that it could read text messages on the user's smartphone.
No company wants to become like Nokia, a firm that was once at the top of its game but failed to keep up when Apple and then Android began to dominate the smartphone space. There's a stark reason why, at this moment in time, WhatsApp costs $19 billion and why Nokia can be bought for a small proportion of that sum. The game changes fast, and you’ve got to move with it.