WhatsApp nears one billion users

fake whatsapp
Twin Design / Shuttershock
WhatsApp founder Jan Koum revealed another milestone for the Facebook-owned messaging app; 900 million active monthly users in September.

At this pace, WhatsApp should reach one billion by the start of 2016. It took four months to move from 800 to 900 million, with 50 percent growth in the past year.

WhatsApp remains the largest messaging service in the world. Facebook Messenger has 700 million users, WeChat just passed 600 million, and LINE reached 400 million earlier this year.

That said, WhatsApp is the least valuable of the four messaging services for advertisers and developers. Unlike the other three, WhatsApp offers no plug-in for developers to create over-the-top apps, and no advertising space.

Even simple monetization routes like emoji and themes packs have not been added to WhatsApp, meaning Facebook is making no return on investment for the $16 billion it paid for WhatsApp in 2014.

Facebook chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg has said there are ways to monetize WhatsApp, but wants to get past the first billion before that happens. That is fast approaching, but there is still no public blueprint for making the messaging app profitable.

Integrating payments, mobile taxi, food delivery and other services is the way apps like WeChat and LINE have been able to keep afloat. That could work for WhatsApp as well, taking a small slice of every payment that occurs inside the messaging service.

Adverts are not going to happen, according to Koum and Zuckerberg. That is not a surprise, considering Facebook’s own messaging client has no adverts.

Facebook seems to understand how to make popular services profitable. Instagram recently added photo and video ads, and there were plans to crawl through user’s photo data to deliver contextual adverts, before a backlash from users arose.

Let’s hope Facebook has learned a user-friendly thing or two about monetization on new platforms when it comes time to sell WhatsApp’s real estate to the highest bidder.

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