What’s up with WhatsApp

Vidya Padmanabhan
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Touted as a top-selling application, WhatsApp has more than changed the way we communicate with friends, family and stalkers (thanks to the block function). It has given messaging a complete make-over.

WhatsApp is a smartphone application which was founded in the heart of Silicon Valley in 2009 by Brain Acton and Jan Koum, both veterans of Yahoo!

It takes two to WhatsApp. So when it came to marketing it, the founders trusted its innate saleability as a communication application instead of going for expensive advertising campaigns. It paid off – within months of its launch, the app that uses the Internet to facilitate textual, audio, and video messaging spread across nations.

Smart idea

The company thus began relying on people (users) for the product to sell. Initially it used a few nifty features and gave it away for free for a year. The service was excellent, simple and ready to go from install. People gave back their love by telling their friends about it and today, WhatsApp is a must-have app on every smartphone.

They kept adding thousands of users regularly and today sit on top of an estimated user-base of 300 million active users.

Usage in India

Apart from this, their cross platform capability allowed the app to be installed on almost any operating system. In India where the majority of the population uses Symbian, WhatsApp had its application available for download on it from the very start. WhatsApp gained importance in India when TRAI came up with a regulation of only 100 SMSes per day in 2012.

Why WhatsApp? Firstly, it helped people connect across different parts of the globe which wasn’t possible with text messaging. It also had added features of sharing photos, videos and audio notes with the user’s WhatsApp contacts. These advantages and many more make WhatsApp the highest rated social app despite competition from other apps such as Viber and We Chat.

Money talk

It’s free for the first year from the day it is installed on a phone. On the last day, the app can be acquired on payment of $1 ($ 0.99). This one-dollar payment is an annual fee. So, if we assume that out of 300 million users, if 200 million are active and want to continue using WhatsApp after a year of free use, the company would earn something close to $200 million yearly.

The question is will people continue to use WhatsApp once it is made a paid app. Only time will tell.

(Vidya is studying Economics at Stella Maris College, Chennai.)

(This article was published on July 17, 2013)
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