So what’s the big deal with Whatsapp?

Recently I wrote about the popularity of chat apps and today the Guardian has a good article about the rise and rise of Whatsapp and how it has become the platform of choice not just for teens planning their group night out but also politicians plotting coups against their party leaders.

What’s app – some killer stats

To put the story in context, consider a few killer facts about the platform:

  • It has over 1 billion users worldwide
  • Nearly 20 billion messages are sent every day
  • It is growing at 1 million new users per day
  • 70% of users are active everyday
  • The company only has 55 enployees
  • It has never spent anything on marketing or promotion

Which perhaps gives you an idea of why Facebook were prepared to pay $19 billion for the company back in 2014.

Why is Whatsapp  so popular?

Whatsapp works for different reasons amongst different users but for many users the appeal is that Whatsapp is like a combination of SMS on steroids, Facebook with privacy and iMessage that works across platforms.

Compared with SMS it offers a richness of experience with the option to send group messages, add images and include video via an internet connection. This offers both convenience and, for some, cost benefits.

Compared with Facebook it offers significant privacy benefits. Firstly, messages can only be read by those having a mobile number known to you and all messages are now encrypted end-to-end (meaning they cannot be pried upon by any outsiders).

And compared to iMessage, Whatsapp is freely available to iOS and Android users alike.

All in all it’s a powerful combination allowing, for example, families to keep in touch or groups of friends to keep up to date with arrangements without everything being posted publicly. It is also completely free, and (so far at least) free from any advertising or commercial messaging (although brands will be able to get involved later this year, according to Campaign).

Today’s Guardian article quotes Professor Daniel Miller from University College London on the platform’s growing appeal:

“In every society, people use [social media] differently but, on the whole, you can say that, whereas Facebook has become this public arena, where people are really thinking about how they look to the general public, WhatsApp has brought in smaller groups who can talk more privately.”

He also explains how it is proving an attractive option across the generations:

“Older adults who may have been intimidated by Facebook, or even an email account, are more likely to associate WhatsApp with their phone than the internet. “They had phones and were getting into texting so something like WhatsApp was relatively straightforward, and not intimidating. And it didn’t have that youth association that said it wasn’t for them.”

Where does Whatsapp go next?

Looking to the future, the big developments on the horizon include letting brands and businesses set up accounts and the option for public groups to be created. Whether these moves add to the appeal or start to take the shine off the user experience remain to be seen.

Read more in the Guardian: From political coups to family feuds: how WhatsApp became our favourite way to chat