What's WhatsApp? A messages service that spans borders, devices

NEW YORK Fri Feb 21, 2014 8:59am IST

A Whatsapp App logo is seen behind a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone that is logged on to Facebook in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, February 20, 2014. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

A Whatsapp App logo is seen behind a Samsung Galaxy S4 phone that is logged on to Facebook in the central Bosnian town of Zenica, February 20, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Dado Ruvic

Related Topics

Stocks

   

NEW YORK (Reuters) - What in the world is WhatsApp?

The online messaging platform has been catching on for a few years with younger users and international sets of friends, but a much larger audience noticed it on Wednesday, when Facebook Inc (FB.O) said it had agreed to pay $19 billion for the service.

It is a phone and mobile device app to send text, video and picture messages, and 450 million people use it monthly, some 200 million more than Twitter, according to numbers from the companies.

And it's adding a million users daily, which caught Facebook's eye.

WhatsApp works across different types of phones, across borders, and without ads. Unlike texts, there is no per-message charge, and there is no fee for international messages, which has helped make it popular outside the United States; WhatsApp charges a 99 cent annual subscription fee, which is waived for the first year.

Customers download the app, type in their phone number, and verify with a code sent by text.

While WhatsApp encrypts communication and does not store messages on its computers, satisfying some privacy concerns, it also prompts new users to allow the app access their address books, prompting another set of privacy issues.

WhatsApp faces a number of rivals, including Rakuten Inc's (4755.T) Viber, Naver Corp's (035420.KS) Line and Tencent Holdings Ltd's(0700.HK) WeChat. All are popular among young people, a demographic that Facebook has been losing out on in recent years and that are likely part of the draw for the company's purchase.

While kids may love the messaging, not all parents do. Mobile messaging is much more difficult for parents to monitor than Facebook, for instance, which has created new worries.

WhatsApp and Facebook both say the messaging service will maintain its independence once the deal goes through.

(Editing by Peter Henderson)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared
A staff of a China Mobile shop explains a function of the iPhone 5s to a customer in Beijing January 17, 2014. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon/Files

Apple revenue lags Street's view despite strong China growth

Apple posted a smaller-than-expected 6 percent rise in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, but revenue surged 28 percent in greater China despite stiff competition in its third-largest market.  Full Article 

TECH SHOWCASE

Privacy Lawsuit

Privacy Lawsuit

Google must face U.S. privacy lawsuit over commingled user data.  Full Article 

New Launch

New Launch

China's Xiaomi announces latest flagship Mi 4 smartphone.  Full Article 

Class Action

Class Action

Google must face class action over kids' in-apps purchases.  Full Article 

Black Hat Conference

Black Hat Conference

Talk on cracking Internet anonymity service Tor canceled.  Full Article 

Nano-Printing

Nano-Printing

Monet masterpiece shrunk down to the size of dust mite.  Video 

Losing Steam

Losing Steam

With sales sputtering, Apple's iPad looks to IBM alliance  Full Article 

N.Y. Forgery Trial

N.Y. Forgery Trial

Zuckerberg to testify at N.Y. forgery trial - prosecutors  Full Article 

Management Changes

Management Changes

BlackBerry names ex-Sybase executive as chief operating officer.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage