WhatsApp's journey has been nothing short of a series of astonishing milestones. Founded in 2009 by Jan Koum and Brian Acton, the messaging app has just hit another big milestone- 800 million monthly active users.
And as Jan rightly points out, it is 800 million 'monthly active users'. The downloads are already past 1 billion (on Android alone). There has been a lot written about WhatsApp and so have we- from the $19 billion acquisition to the psychology behind WhatsApp's rise to how WhatsApp is changing how businesses work. At this juncture, we'd like to focus on some of the interesting points about WhatsApp and the folks behind it:
1) The mind boggling growth rate
There's hardly ever been anything that has spread across the world so rapidly. Starting in 2009, in 5 years, WhatsaApp had 500 million monthly active users and in the last one year, this number has almost become 2x to 800 million in just one year. Look at this chart from Benedict Evan's post on WhatsApp's rise:
2) The strict adherence to WhatsApp's no-ads policy
One of the things that WhatsApp has stuck with is no-ads. Even before they were big or the talks of acquisition had started, WhatsApp was adamant about their stance on ads. Here's what Jan Koum wrote in a 2010 post,
The last item we would like to quickly address is the cost of the product. A small number of you have asked us why don't we switch to a free model and use advertising. The problem is that ads suck and ads suck even more on the small screen of a mobile device. We want to provide the best user experience and doing advertising will only get in the way of clean UI.
3) Very clear and concise communication with the company
Yes, in hindsight, it all looks rosy but one look at WhatsApp's blog and you'll realize that there the motive was very clear from the beginning and everything that was happening was being clearly communicated to users all the time. For instance, a 2009 posts talks about a developer of a competing application who went into iTunes and created about ten different accounts to spread lies and misinformation about what WhatsApp does. The folks at WhatsApp came out without accusing and asked for the community to help out, clearly communicating what was happening.
4) A small team
WhatsApp really shows the power of technology. You don't really need a lot of people to change the world.
And finally, it was serendipity to find out that Jan Koum's Facebook cover photo is from a book of Murakami's. And it had to be. All the magic and surrealism. To know what I'm talking about, pick up the nearest Murakami book and get reading.