WhatsApp and Travel: Why the Simple App is Already a World Favorite
Sixteen billion dollars.
That's how much Facebook just handed over to WhatsApp, the free SMS messaging app. When all is said and done, the deal is closer to $19 billion, and it's a shocking sum to pay for a company that offers its services for free to users.
Regardless, we've heard "are you on WhatsApp?" the world over, and it's especially popular in regions of where Facebook is not. For example, in India WhatsApp boasts 35 million users, which sounds incredible until you hear the total for globally active users of WhatsApp tops 430 million. This is approaching the entire global telecom SMS volume, and today's news will surely help the app reach and quickly surpass the 500 million milestone. Microsoft paid $8.5 billion for Skype's 300 million users in 2011, so WhatsApp's price does seem right.
Still, $16 billion is a heck of a lot for an app which has famously shirked advertising income, but the result is a simple-to-use, simply designed, free service that fulfills a basic modern need.
Users do have to be connected to some internet data source (4G, 3G, Edge, etc) or good ol' WiFi in order to use WhatsApp, and we can't help but wonder if Facebook's influence will ruin it (note the introduction of sponsored content into Facebook-owned Instagram), but one thing is for sure: WhatsApp has quickly become an international means of instantaneous communication, and will continue to grow.
If a traveler hasn't downloaded it by now, there may come a time (whether it's in a hostel in Sihanoukville or over cocktails at a Michelin-starred restaurant) that a new friend or professional contact met on the road will want to add you to their WhatsApp. Download it now.