Does WhatsApp deal show Facebook knows what's up?

Feb 20 2014, 4:44pm CST | by

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — If Facebook hopes to remain the social networking leader, CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows the company must follow the people. That realization compelled Zuckerberg to pay $19 billion for WhatsApp, a mobile messaging application that is redefining the concept of texting while its audience of 450 million users expands at an even faster clip than Facebook itself.

The deal sent shock waves through the technology industry because of the staggering price being paid for a four-year-old service that isn't as well known in the U.S. as it is overseas where WhatsApp has become a hip way to communicate instantaneously.

Although the amount of money involved is difficult to comprehend, the reason Facebook prizes WhatsApp is easier to grasp.

"This is a 'go big or go home' moment for Facebook," said Benedict Evans, a former cellphone analyst who is now a partner with the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Just as he did nearly two years ago when Facebook bought photo-sharing service Instagram for $715 million, Zuckerberg is trying to ensure that his company doesn't get left behind as people move to the next trend.

And WhatsApp is what's hot now. The Mountain View, Calif., startup already has nearly twice as many users as the better known short messaging service, Twitter Inc. What's more, WhatsApp is adding about 1 million users each day — more than even Facebook.

The rapid growth has convinced Zuckerberg that WhatsApp is bound to exceed 1 billion users within the next few years to give Facebook even more telling insights into what matters to people. Even at its current size, WhatsApp is already handling an average of 19 billion messages per day. Those daily messages include about 600 million photos. Facebook believes that WhatsApp's messaging volume already exceeds all the traditional texts sent through the networks of cellphone carriers. Those short messaging services, or SMS, generate about $100 billion in annual revenue while WhatsApp charges just $1 annually after the first year of free usage.

By making a big bet on WhatsApp, Zuckerberg is trying to avoid the mistake that one of his heroes, Microsoft Corp. co-founder Bill Gates, made during the late 1990s when the Internet began to trigger an upheaval in business and culture. Gates recognized that Microsoft's lucrative Windows software franchise could be undermined by a variety of new services made possible by the Internet, but didn't act on some his early instincts.

By the time that Steve Ballmer had succeeded Gates as Microsoft's CEO in 2000, Google Inc. was already way ahead in the lucrative field of Internet search and Apple was gearing up to develop the iPod music player that paved the way for the iPhone.

Zuckerberg, 29, is showing his savvy and moxie by moving quickly to adapt to fickle tastes, said David Rogers, a professor at Columbia University's business school and the author of the book, "The Network is Your Customer."

"User behaviors in these digital experiences evolve so rapidly that you can't afford to play the Windows game and say, 'We are the dominant platform so we are just going to hold our position by making little tweaks,'" Rogers said.

Zuckerberg signaled his interest in mobile messaging apps late last year when he offered to buy Snapchat for $3 billion only to be rebuffed, according to several media outlets and technology blogs that quoted unnamed sources. It took less than two weeks to pull of the WhatsApp deal, according to Zuckerberg.

Being nimble has become even more important as smartphones supplant personal computers as the primary way people interact with digital services.

The advent of smartphones has been accompanied by a seemingly bottomless well of free smartphone applications that make it easy for people to hopscotch from one service to the next. The phenomenon has made it more difficult for a single application to become a one-stop shop that fulfills everyone's digital desires.

"The smartphone is a social platform in ways that the desktop computer never really was," Evans said. "A lot of the winner-take-all dynamics don't apply on the smartphone."

Facebook has been adjusting to this reality more quickly than many other Internet companies that began to thrive while PCs still ruled. While Facebook remains the world's most popular hangout with 1.23 billion users worldwide, a lot of its audience turns to other mobile apps for reading news, sharing photos and sending messages.

The fragmentation is prompting Facebook to develop a suite of discrete apps. Besides acquiring Instagram for sharing photos on mobile devices, Facebook recently introduced a new app for perusing news and now is trying to become a bigger player in mobile messaging with the WhatsApp acquisition.

Facebook is "trying to keep its coolness factor with all these different products that could turn them into a mobile media conglomerate," said Virginia Commonwealth University journalism professor Marcus Messner, who studies social media.

Facebook already offers its own messaging app tied to its social network. Although that app is popular in its own right, Zuckerberg noticed that it increasingly had become more like email instead of real-time communication like WhatsApp is. Most WhatsApp users also give the service access to the personal contact lists stored on smartphones, providing Facebook with another potentially valuable source of data.

"This is not an investment in the current value of WhatsApp," Messner said. "This is an investment in the potential of WhatsApp."

Source: AP Apple

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/31" rel="author">Associated Press</a>
The Associated Press (AP) is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Apple and GT Part Ways
Apple and GT Part Ways
The Cupertino company has parted ways with their sapphire provider
 
 
Apple Turns To Crowdsourcing For Maps
Apple Turns To Crowdsourcing For Maps
The company is working hard to improve their Maps App
 
 
Apple’s Mac Sales Are Back
Apple’s Mac Sales Are Back
Their recent earnings show that computers are coming back
 
 
Cook Talks to the Chinese Authority on the Security of User Data on iCloud
Cook Talks to the Chinese Authority on the Security of User Data on iCloud
The Apple CEO has a conversation with the high Chinese officials regarding the iCloud user data security threat
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Second MERS case reported in Qatar
Doha, Oct 23 (IANS) A 43-year-old man in Qatar has tested positive for Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the second confirmed case of the deadly virus in 10 days, media reported Thursday. The patient had...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Two people die in Pakistan bomb blast
Islamabad, Oct 23 (IANS) At least two people were killed and 12 others injured in an explosion that took place in Pakistan's Balochistan province Thursday, media reported. The bomb was planted on a motorcycle, Dawn...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Trott extends contract with Warwickshire till 2017
London, Oct 23 (IANS) England batsman Jonathan Trott, whose mental issues led to his abrupt departure from last winter's Ashes tour, has confirmed his successful comeback to competitive cricket by signing a new three-...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap big movers in BWF rankings
Kuala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings released Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Alvin Stardust dead
London, Oct 23 (IANS) English singer Alvin Stardust died after a short illness. He was 72. Stardust's manager confirmed the news about his demise Thursday, reports mirror.co.uk. He was recently diagnosed with...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Indian man reunited with family after 40 years
Dubai, Oct 23 (IANS) An Indian man, who had disappeared from his hometown in Kerala nearly 40 years ago, has been found by his family at a hospital in Dubai in the UAE, a newspaper report said. Now in his 60s, Abdulla...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Srikanth, Kashyap, Saina rise in world rankings
Kala Lumpur, Oct 23 (IANS) Indian men shuttlers Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap jumped seven places each in the latest released Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings Thursday while Olympic bronze medallist...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Flintoff signs for Big Bash side Brisbane Heat
Brisbane, Oct 23 (IANS) Former England captain and all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, who retired from international cricket in 2009, Wednesday confirmed that he will play for Brisbane Heat in the Big Bash League (BBL) this...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
OPEC daily basket price falls again
Vienna, Oct 23 (IANS/WAM) The basket of 12 crude oils of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) closed at $81.94 a barrel Wednesday compared to $82.09 Tuesday, the OPEC Secretariat said. The new OPEC...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Lopez to sign multi-million dollar deal?
Los Angeles, Oct 23 (IANS) Singer-actress Jennifer Lopez is reportedly in the final stages of securing a multi-million dollar deal to perform in Las Vegas. The 45-year-old is being offered $350,000 per show at The...
Read more on Celebrity Balla