I resisted texting for a very long time. Even when I got my first iPhone I wasn’t much of a texter; I believed if I needed to tell someone something, I should just call them. I had the absolute bare minimum texting plan for my phone, and I could never imagine using up that limit. (Remember when there were texting limits?)
It was about this time that Dresden moved to my neighborhood, and she told me about WhatsApp. We were hanging out at a playground with our kids and her phone was full of alerts from an app I’d never heard of, so I asked her about it. She and a close group of friends used the app because it was free (eventually the app cost $.99 after the first year), and they could text all they wanted without using the texting options on their phone plans.
I didn’t think about WhatsApp again for about three years, even though I became a full believer in texting, and now, in fact, I hate actually having to talk on the phone. I didn’t know anyone was still using it until I heard the big news that Facebook was planning to purchase the little-known app for a whopping $19 Billion dollars.
So why on earth would Facebook invest so much in this unknown app? First of all, it’s actually wildly popular and just not in the United States. With 450 million users, it’s extremely popular among users in India, Brazil, Mexico, and much of Europe. In fact, and even more interesting, WhatsApp users around the world share 500 million photos a day that’s 150 million MORE photos than are shared on Facebook.
That’s a lot of photos.
Still, unless you’re sitting at the board table at Facebook it’s hard to know why, exactly, Facebook is investing so heavily in Whatsapp. Some folks feel it’s because Facebook wants to tap into expanding markets, but most believe it’s because Facebook is still working hard to catch up when it comes to Mobile. But without a doubt $19 Billion is an astonishingly high amount of money for an app.
There’s a bit of a heartwarming story here, too. WhatsApp was founded by Jan Koum, who emigrated to the United States from the Ukraine and spent years living in poverty even spending some time living on food stamps. (I can sure relate, but am sad to say I have yet to create an app worth $19 billion, nor is it likely that I ever will.)
It was that part of the story that made my friend Dresden happy when I asked her about the news. She told me she ditched the app a while ago after her phone plan and her friend’s plans all switched to unlimited texting. “But I am all for food stamps to riches!” she said. If Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion, it’s going to be very interesting to see where they invest next.