The ambitions of WhatsApp have remained something of a mystery, even as its reach as a messaging service and as the social media platform of choice for Africans has grown and grown. It has done so without a very obvious business plan and we had often wondered why.
Then, after the departure of co-founders Brian Action (September 2017) and Jan Koum (April 2018) from parent company, Facebook, there has been some great reporting (paywall) on the internal tensions over how a desire to protect users’ privacy clashed with the goal of commercialising WhatsApp to justify the $22 billion Facebook paid for it in 2014.
WhatsApp’s competitive advantage is in emerging markets, where its service almost always works, regardless of internet speed or available bandwidth. It is the world’s No.1 messaging service, thanks to users from Latin America to Africa and most of Asia outside China.
In these regions, there is intense interest from local businesses that want to see WhatsApp commercialised, so they will be able to use the platform more efficiently to transact with their customers who pretty much live on WhatsApp.
A number of us have already experienced the discomfort that comes with having disturbing, incessant and unsolicited ads on a number of messaging services. We are not sure this is the best move for whatsapp as on the long run, some users will be forced to delete the messaging app.
Perhaps Facebook Inc would have cashed out as much as they would like by then. Take a page from the likes of BBM, this never ends well. For now, Goodluck Whatsapp!