What's up with the WhatsApp acquisition?

(All rights reserved)

(All rights reserved)

Relaxnews

, Last Updated: 11:23 AM ET

Should users be concerned that Facebook has just bought the social messaging app for an incredible $19 billion, or should they just keep calm and carry on texting?

Not everyone who uses Facebook uses WhatsApp and vice versa, but, more importantly, not every person using WhatsApp likes or wants to use Facebook. So no doubt, they will be asking themselves a number of questions, now that the social messaging app has become the latest item on Facebook's shopping list to get ticked off.

But before users hit the delete button, bear in mind how Facebook has treated Instagram since it was snapped up in 2012. The image sharing site has been left to its own devices, even if integration with Facebook has somewhat improved.

And Facebook is promising the same hands-off treatment with WhatsApp. The company's co-founder and CEO Jan Koum will get a seat on Facebook's board and will continue to be directly involved with the service. Facebook has promised that it will simply help WhatsApp to grow via its platform, coding and financial clout. So no rebranding, and no ads appearing within messages.

"WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people. The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable," said Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder and CEO. "I've known [WhatsApp co-founder] Jan for a long time and I'm excited to partner with him and his team to make the world more open and connected."

WhatsApp already has over 450 million users and they love the app so much that they already use it to send more messages than the world's entire traditional SMS text message traffic. What's more, it is growing by a further 1 million users every day. But that's unsurprising considering that the service is 'free'.

Anyone can download and start using the app for nothing to send text, voice and picture messages and, if they like its performance, can agree to pay an annual subscription fee, equal to $1 dollar following the first year's use.

Of the acquisition, Jan Koum, WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, said: "WhatsApp's extremely high user engagement and rapid growth are driven by the simple, powerful and instantaneous messaging capabilities we provide. We're excited and honored to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world."

2014 is expected to be the year in which instant and social messaging app use not only explodes, but starts to challenge services like Facebook and Google+ as mobile-first social networks. According to the latest figures from Juniper Research, published this week, instant messaging apps will account for 75 percent of all messaging traffic on networks -- that's 63 trillion messages -- by 2018.

In fact the growth in popularity has been so pronounced that Juniper had to revisit the subject. "Adoption of IM apps has rapidly accelerated over the past 18 months, something which has led Juniper to revise upwards our forecast for the volume of IM traffic," said the company's Sian Rowlands.

Rowlands also notes that one of the reasons why apps like WhatsApp and Line are generating so much traffic is because they're aren't simply being used as 'free' SMS replacements. Users treat them like ongoing conversations, sending upwards of 10 messages to convey something that would have been explained via a single text message sent over cellular networks.


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