The multi-platform instant messaging app WhatsApp has been growing steadily, and these days it’s just as common to hear someone say, “WhatsApp the address to me”, as it used to be to hear phrases like “Facebook me” and “Google it”.
In a blog post on Tuesday WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum wrote that WhatsApp has crossed 500 million users, adding 50 million since February, when the company’s acquisition by Facebook was announced.
“In the last few months, we’ve grown fastest in countries like Brazil, India, Mexico, and Russia,” Koum wrote. In an interview given to Re/Code, Koum went into a little more detail. He told Re/Code that WhatsApp now has 48 million active users in India alone, its single largest country. Koum noted that this number is about half the number of Facebook’s active users in India. The company has arranged deals with carriers to offer unlimited WhatsApp data usage for less than Rs. 20 per month.
Many Asian markets, including India, have a glut of messaging apps available. In India for example, companies like WeChat, Hike, and Line have been making inroads with strong visibility through TV advertising.
However, in the interview, Koum dismissed the competition. According to Re/Code, Koum pointed out that his competitors have had trouble making inroads in WhatsApp strongholds like India and Spain, despite splashy and costly efforts. “There’s not enough money and not enough celebrities in the world to convince people to use a shitty product. People are so savvy these days. People expect a good user experience.”
An interesting metric that Koum shared is how the users see WhatsApp as a multimedia platform – he writes, “[…] our users are also sharing more than 700 million photos and 100 million videos every single day.” Those numbers rival Facebook’s and help highlight why Mark Zuckerberg paid a big amount to acquire WhatsApp.
The deal with Facebook did not go off without any hitches – it was initially halted by US regulators; and it was believed that there might be similar issues in India too. The company however received US approval earlier this month.
In March, fellow Facebook acquisition Instagram crossed 200 million users, and started to integrate more Facebook related features such as Facebook Places integration. For now at least, WhatsApp will not add too many new features, Koum told Re/Code. “I worry about how to offer a competitive set of features without making the UI difficult, the user experience worse, the application bloated,” he said. “These screens are small. There’s a limited amount of memory and bandwidth. It’s just all about focus.”
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