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Whatsapp hits 1 billion users, what next ?


Facebook-owned messaging service, Whatsapp now boasts a billion users a month. Although we all knew this moment would come, we just didn’t think it would happen so fast.  To put this in context, it took 16 years for the smartphone market as a whole to reach the billion user threshold and 11 years for Gmail to do the same. Whatsapp has done this in just seven years of being in use.

When Facebook agreed to pay a staggering $22 billion for WhatsApp in February of 2014, their justification was simple – The messaging service was expected to reach 1 billion users, most of whom were in developing countries, giving Facebook a significant hold in places where it previously had none.

Despite the takeover by Facebook, the company still largely retained its autonomy – WhatsApp had 450 million monthly active users before Facebook acquired it, and the small team has since then, doubled their user base. Thanks in part to the app’s ad-free stance and minimal design.

“Whatsapp began as a simple idea: ensuring that anyone could stay in touch with family and friends anywhere on the planet, without costs or gimmicks standing in the way…so even as we celebrate this achievement, our focus remains the same.”  Co-founder Jan Koum

True to their word, Whatsapp has been ad free and is not likely to change any time soon. However, we do expect to see some drastic changes in the coming months, as the company had earlier announced that they will be dropping their annual subscription fee and would instead begin experimenting with business accounts.

Though they did not disclose exactly how these business accounts will be integrated, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid strong emphasis on the growing need for businesses to communicate with their customers through chat and their willingness to facilitate the same.

Now that the 1 billion mark has been reached, Whatsapp is setting its eyes on a much bigger target, the rest of the 6 billion people out there who are not using the service.

Co-founder Jan Koum who seemed happy with the milestone jokingly noted on twitter that although Whatsapp has attained record success in a short period of time,  the company has never received proper recognition from Silicon Valley.  In a tweet to actor Leonardo Dicaprio he said:

one billion users and not a single Crunchie award. Leo, I feel your pain brother… @LeoDiCaprio

While 6 billion users may seem far fetched at this time, let us all remember that just a few years ago, Whatsapp was a little-known service with less than 200 million users. Today, its small team of 57 engineers handles nearly 42 billion messages a day. Who’s to say what the next seven years will hold.

By Trevor Kimenye, CEO of Ongair – a local company that allows businesses to communicate with their customers via Instant Messaging platforms. 

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