There is little doubt that WhatsApp altered communication irreversibly in the past decade. The service founded by former Yahoo! employees in 2009 is now being used by two billion users across the world. That is more than a quarter of the global population.
India alone accounts for 400 million of these users, and is its largest market globally.
WhatsApp's impact on instant and private, one-to-one messaging will stand the test of time. Only its parent company, Facebook, which acquired the service in 2014, counts more users (2.5 billion) on its platform.
It took two years for WhatsApp to add its last 500 million users, coinciding with the time when the conversation around data privacy is getting louder by the hour. WhatsApp wants to ensure that its users can continue to communicate through end-to-end encrypted channels — one of the platform's key features.
"We know that the more we connect, the more we have to protect. As we conduct more of our lives online, protecting our conversations is more important than ever. Every private message sent using WhatsApp is secured with end-to-end encryption by default," the company stated on its official blog.
The platform, which has been under immense pressure from parent Facebook to monetise its massive user base, went on to explain:
"Strong encryption acts like an unbreakable digital lock that keeps the information you send over WhatsApp secure, helping protect you from hackers and criminals. Messages are only kept on your phone, and no one in between can read your messages or listen to your calls, not even us. Your private conversations stay between you."
Last year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg proposed changing the branding on WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger and making them interoperable. It, however, raised concerns around messaging security on WhatsApp given Facebook's questionable reputation on the subject since the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018.
WhatsApp Global Head Will Cathcart recently hinted at the company's motives to stick with the strongest of encryptions. In an interview to Wall Street Journal, he said:
“For all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other, and we don’t think that should go away in a modern society."
The Facebook-owned company also revealed that it works with top security experts and employs industry-leading technology "to stop misuse as well as provide controls and ways to report issues — without sacrificing privacy."
Over the years, WhatsApp has rolled out multiple tools and features to help individual users keep their communication safe and secure.
These include two-step verification, turning off 'last seen at', and read receipts, status and profile photo privacy, Touch ID, Face ID and Android fingerprint lock, and other group privacy settings
"Strong encryption is a necessity in modern life. We will not compromise on security because that would make people less safe," WhatsApp added.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)