Messaging services power modern communications. WhatsApp is no doubt one of the most popular messaging service, standing tall among other services such as Viber, Google hangouts, Signal, Hipchat(now Stride ), Skype, Facebook Messenger, We Chat, Line, MessageMe, Piip,Tango , KIK and AIM.
Currently, WhatsApp is so pervasive in Ghana that we can estimate 90 per cent of information flows around WhatsApp, actualised by a myriad of groups and broadcast lists covering all aspects of society; political groups, social networks, business, board level. There are ad hoc groups discussing serious issues, making important decisions, and even fun and mundane type conversations.
After leaving Yahoo, Brian Acton and Jan Koum, the founders of WhatsApp, applied to work with facebook but their job application was rejected. The rejection turned out to be a blessing in disguise because it gave them the opportunity to create WhatsApp in 2009 powered by the vision of ensuring that people could communicate with mobile apps. Their idea gave birth to WhatsApp which enables mobile users to interact, connect and engage with their business contacts, family, friends and the like.
After launching whatsApp, the pair went through a very difficult patch but they never gave up. By February 2013, they hit gold. Their app attracted over 200 million users, thereafter, Facebook bought them out for a mind-blowing 19 billion US dollars, one of the largest acquisitions in the world to date.
Today, WhatsApp which enables users to share text, image, voice calls, video messages plus other value-added services has over 1 billion users; meaning about one in seven people on earth use WhatsApp each month to stay in touch with their loved ones, friends and family.
How does whatsapp make money
WhatsApp allows people to communicate by downloading the app at no cost. Traditionally, the app runs on mobile phone and more recently, users can now connect and use the apps on their desktops. Beyond the early days in which WhatsApp charged a nominal 1US dollar fee to download the app (since scrapped), whatsApp has not managed to monetise its app, that is to say, it has not been able to convert this asset into money. However, WeChat, which is a very popular messaging app in Asia, especially China, has ads as well as online games popping up on them and is ,thus, monetised its assets.
It is imperative to note that, WhatsApp may not be considering immediate monetisation since it is focusing on growing its base. However, because of the access to phone contacts, location data plus its ability to collect personal information and behavioural data, it is able to leverage that for targeting Facebook ads. Currently, WhatsApp does not make money, however, Facebook makes all the money in this symbiotic relationship.
WhatsApp is considering a lot of innovation in the next couple of years, for example, it is reported that in India, WhatsApp is planning to introduce "immediate bank-to-bank transfer with Unified Payments Interface (UPI)” Reserve Bank of India bringing them a step closer to the lucrative mobile money arena.
The key question is how safe is your information with WhatsApp? The answer to this is the introduction of End-to-End Encryption which means a message is turned into a secret by the original sender and decoded by the recipient. In this way, the message is considered to be safe from third parties. However, there is nothing like perfect cyber security, therefore, users must be conscious of what information they share on WhatsApp.
Groups rules and liability
What makes WhatsApp interesting is that beyond person-to-person modes of communication, it facilitates group communication whereby, users can create groups with membership of up to 256 participants. Usually, such group creators attempt to create group rules of engagement, some of the rules are disregarded without any penalty whereas in other groups, users get removed if they break any of the rules. Though not tested nor applicable in a number of countries, in India, based on a court ruling , a WhatsApp admin can be held liable and end up in prison for messages transmitted in groups they created or are moderating (http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/gadgets-and-tech/news/whatsapp-group-chat-facebook-india-prison-jail-admin-user-administrator-a7694486.html) . As fake news spread like bush fire on WhatsApp, the prediction is that it is only a matter of time for other countries to consider enacting this law.
In conclusion, in our fast-moving information and knowledge age, communication is key, the faster, cheaper and more accessible the channels of communications are, the better their popularity and so messaging platforms such as WhatsApp are going to be certainly growing in importance each passing day.