In the midst of this society where posting meals, workout videos and Selfies is the norm, I choose to distance myself a bit. It’s not because I harbour fears of MI6, the FBI or the KGB knowing everything about my pretty average life, it’s because I don’t feel a need to post everything online (even though the fact I’m writing a blog suggests otherwise). I’m sure if the powers that be wanted to find out everything, they could do so in a number of different ways.
So when Facebook bought Whatsapp for $18bn on the last month, I sat up and paid attention.
Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube in 2006, which it has been estimated, makes billions of dollars a year through advertising. It was very clear why Google bought YouTube from a revenue point of view, and from a market positioning viewpoint. The purchase of Whatsapp is not surprising in itself, it’s the amount of money which is puzzling
Apps generally make money in a few ways; either they charge a fee upfront, charge monthly or quarterly for premium services, or they allow advertising on their apps. Whatsapp is different because it is free to use for a year, and then $0.99 (£0.69) a year. Knowing that there are approximately 465 million users and 330 million daily users worldwide, it is estimated that Whatsapp rakes in about $225 million a year. Not bad for a company which employs only 55 people. Whatsapp is currently adding 1 million users per day and at this rate, it will have approximately 815 million users 1 year from now. An interesting side note is that it is rumoured that Google were willing to pay $10bn for Whatsapp, which has wiped $33 billion off SMS revenues in 2013.
What Whatsapp represents, is a free way to communicate with friends and family around the world in real-time, in groups and sending pictures. The pictures we send over Whatsapp can be very personal, too personal to put on Facebook but OK when we know it will only be seen by a close friend or family member. The way we chat on Whatapp is different to another media. Short messages to say where we are, checking if there is someone at the party you don’t want to see, or a simple message to say you are thinking about someone, Whatsapp has become so ingrained into our lives, that the verb ‘Whatsappen’ (meaning to send an electronic message) has been added to the Dutch dictionary.
Facebook has long since been at the centre of privacy issues, and the acquisition of Whatsapp is something to take notice of. It is no secret that Institutions have been hacking Facebook accounts to find out information about people, and companies have been allowed access to much information in order to talior its advertising to Facebook users. Don’t be surprised in a few months or years that privacy polices will start to change as Whatsapp becomes integrated with Facebook. Sure Whatsapp represents a good long-term financial investment, but maybe the most significant investment is in data. The ability to read your messages, see who is in your address book, and once the planned voice calling is integrated into Whatsapp listen to conversations, Whatsapp then becomes a key instrument in further chipping away at our privacy.
If you are a conspiracy theorist or not, maybe its time for all of us to become increasingly critical and more aware about how we use social media.