WhatsApp hits 600 million active users

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WhatsApp continues to grow at a fast clip, with boss and founder Jan Koum tweeting Monday that the messaging service now has 600 million monthly active users worldwide.

Acquired by Facebook back in February for a colossal $19 billion, the latest data shows the app continues to lead the pack in the field of mobile messaging.

Koum evidently couldn’t resist a little crack at rival messaging services in his tweet, specifically those that go by registered users rather than active users when announcing updated stats.

Its current user base of 600 million marks an increase of 100 million since April, while 14 months ago it reported 250 million active users.

Launched in 2009, the cross-platform app is free for a year, after which users have to pay a dollar annually to extend their subscription. The revenue allows it to keep the service free of ads, a situation Koum promised wouldn’t change following Facebook’s purchase. Indeed, the startup likes to keep things simple, ignoring extra features such as stickers and games favored by rival services.

Related: Facebook buys WhatsApp for $19 billion

With more users than any other similar app, it appears to be a winning formula. However, rivals are pushing to close the gap, with Tango, for example, recently launching a $25 million gaming fund designed to encourage developers to bring their software to its messaging service, confident that such content will be a hit with users.

Tango has gradually evolved into a full-fledged social platform since launching in 2009. Besides communicating with each other via text, video, and voice, users can also share photos, discover new music, and play games.

Another rival, Viber, was acquired by Japan-based e-commerce giant Rakuten in February for $900 million. Earlier this year it had 100 million active users, though Rakuten boss Hiroshi Mikitani said in March he plans to eventually reach 2 billion users, a mighty ambition if ever there was one.

The likes of Kik, BBM, and Line are also jostling for position in the mobile messaging space, with smartphone growth in developing countries promising plenty of possibilities for continued expansion.

WeChat is currently the second biggest player in the space, with 438 million active users. Launched three years ago, the cross-platform service has proved incredibly popular with its mainly Chinese user base, though it’s now also picking up plenty of users around the world.

[via TNW]

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