Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp sounds very much smarter. CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced on the Q4 2017 earnings call today that WhatsApp now has 1.5 billion users and observes 60 billion messages sent per day. This is compared to 1.3 billion monthly users and 1 billion daily active users in July.
The tremendous growth makes Facebook’s choice to pay more than $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp look prescient. Long ago in 2014, WhatsApp had just 450 million monthly active users and 315 million daily active users.
In a slight to Snapchat, Zuckerberg also observed that Instagram and WhatsApp are the No. 1 and No. 2 most popular Story-sharing products, referring to those apps’ clones of Snapchat Stories. Now each one of them have 300 million daily active users, compared to 178 million on Snapchat as a whole. He also states that Facebook’s research suggests that across apps, total social media posting to Stories will soon exceed that of feed posting.
People thought Facebook was crazy to pay such a high price. But messaging is the most crucial and time-consuming activity on mobile. And if Facebook didn’t buy WhatsApp, Google probably would have taken over, and messaging would be a two-horse race. Instead, Facebook is massively dominant everywhere but China, between the 1.3 billion-user Messenger and 1.5 billion-user WhatsApp.
Now Facebook is ultimately getting more serious about monetizing WhatsApp with the recent launch of the WhatsApp for Business app. Facebook plans to charge business owners for additional commerce, broadcasting tools or customer service. And having such a massive audience, merchants will be clamoring for them.
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