WhatsApp

WhatsApp is an American freeware service owned by Facebook, Inc. It allows users to send text messages and voice messages, makes voice and video calls, and share images, documents, user locations, and other content.

Quick Facts

Summary

  • Ranked #11th worldwide
  • Active users 2 B
  • Type Messaging Networks
  • Launched date Feb 24, 2009
  • Employees 55
  • Headquarters Mountain View, California, U.S.
  • Parent company Facebook, Inc. (2014 - present)

Founders

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Jan Koum Kyiv
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Brian Acton

Networks

  • Brand value In 2020 N/A
  • Revenue in 2020 $5.5 B
  • Net loss In 2020 $400 M

Data Graphs

personvia Statista.com

Current Controversies

Current ControversiesWhatsApp announced an update to Privacy Policy. (via sproutwired.com)

WhatsApp was initially criticized for its lack of encryption, sending information as plaintext. Encryption was first added in May 2012. End-to-end encryption was only fully implemented in Apr 2016 after a two-year process.

In Sep 2019, WhatsApp was criticized for its implementation of a 'delete for everyone' feature.

In Jan 2021, WhatsApp announced an update to Privacy Policy which states that WhatsApp will share user data with Facebook and its "family of companies" starting Feb 2021.

Previously, users could opt-out of such data sharing, but the new policy removes this option.

The new Privacy Policy does not apply within the EU, since it is illegal under GDPR. Facebook and WhatsApp have been widely criticized for this move.

The enforcement of the privacy policy has been postponed from Feb 8 to May 15, 2021.

2019 Lawsuit

2019 LawsuitWhatsApp hack. (©FT montage/Dreamstime via ft.com)

In May 2019, WhatsApp was attacked by hackers who installed spyware on a number of victims' smartphones.

The hack, allegedly developed by Israeli surveillance technology firm NSO Group, injected malware onto WhatsApp users’ phones via a remote-exploit bug in the app's Voice over IP calling functions.

A Wired report noted the attack was able to inject malware via calls to the targeted phone, even if the user did not answer the call.

On Oct 29, WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against NSO Group in a San Francisco court, claiming that the alleged cyberattack violated US laws including the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

According to WhatsApp, the exploit "targeted at least 100 human-rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society" among a total of 1,400 users in 20 countries.

Original Idea

original ideaoriginal idea

Jan Koum and Brian Acton founded WhatsApp in 2009 after they left their job at Yahoo!. Jan Koum bought an iPhone in January 2009 and soon realised the app industry’s potential on a few months old App Store.

He wanted to build an app that shows statuses next to the individual names of the users. Koum discussed the idea with Acton, and both started visiting Alex Fishman for more insights.

But executing this idea was impossible without the help of an iOS developer. So, Alex introduced them to a Russian developer, Igor Solomennikov, whom he found on RentACoder.com.

Koum named the app WhatsApp to sound like "what's up". On Feb 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. However, when early versions of WhatsApp kept crashing, Koum considered giving up and looking for a new job. Acton encouraged him to wait for a "few more months".

Brief History

2009
Feb Jan Koum incorporates WhatsApp in USA.
Aug WhatsApp 2.0 is released on the App Store for the iPhone.
Oct Brian Acton persuades five ex-Yahoo! friends to invest $250,000 in seed funding, and is granted co-founder status.
Dec WhatsApp for the iPhone is updated to send photos.
2010
Aug WhatsApp support for Android OS is added.
2011
Jan WeChat is founded.
Apr Series A round, WhatsApp founders agree to take $8M from Sequoia Capital on top of their $250,000 seed funding.
May SnapChat was founded.
2012
Jan An unknown hacker publishes a website that makes it possible to change the status of an arbitrary WhatsApp user.
Aug The WhatsApp support staff announce that messages were encrypted in the "latest version" of the WhatsApp software for iOS and Android.
2013
Feb 200M active users with only 50 staff members.
Jul Sequoia Capital invests another $50M in Series B round, valuing at $1.5B.

WhatsApp goes free, with an annual subscription fee of $1 after the first year.

Aug Introduced voice messaging.

Telegram launched.

Dec 400M active users.
2014
Feb Facebook, Inc. announces its acquisition of WhatsApp for US$19B.
Mar Someone discovers a vulnerability in WhatsApp encryption on the Android application.
Aug 600M active users.
Nov Introduced a feature named Read Receipts.
2015
Jan 700M monthly active users and 30B messages every day.

Launched WhatsApp Web, a web client.

WhatsApp announces its policy on cracking down on 3rd-party clients, including WhatsApp+.

Mar Added voice calls between two accounts.
2016
Jan WhatsApp is dropping the $1 annual fee.
Mar Diego Dzodan, a Facebook executive, is arrested by Brazilian federal police.

Introduced its document-sharing feature.

Apr WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems announce that they have finished adding end-to-end encryption to "every form of communication" on WhatsApp, and that users could now verify each other's keys.
May WhatsApp is introduced for both Windows and macOS operating systems.

WhatsApp shut down in Brazil.

Nov Added video calls between two accounts.

Launched a beta version of two-step verification for Android users.

Facebook ceased collecting WhatsApp data for advertising in Europe.

2017
Feb WhatsApp's 8th birthday, launched a new Status feature.

1.2B active users.

Sep WhatsApp started external testing of an enterprise platform. Airline KLM launched such a service.

Brian Acton left the company.

2018
Jan Launched WhatsApp Business.
Apr Jan Koum left the company and Chris Daniels, the guy who’s been running Internet.org, took over as WhatsApp CEO.
Jul Added group voice and video calls for up to four accounts.
2019
Oct WhatsApp filed a lawsuit against NSO Group in a San Francisco court.

Launched a new fingerprint app-locking feature for Android users.

2020

Launched the Dark Mode feature, a new design consisting of a darker palette.

Feb 2B active users.
Apr Group calls now allow up to 8 accounts.
Oct WhatsApp allows users to mute a chat forever.

Network Features

WhatsApp business

WhatsApp business WhatsApp business. (via newsfeed.org)

WhatsApp business was designed with the small, local business in mind. It has features which help micro and small businesses get a business presence on WhatsApp and communicate with customers on their favorite messenger app.

It is basically an upgraded WhatsApp and has additional features compared to the standard app.

WhatsApp Payments

WhatsApp PaymentsWhatsApp Pay. (via faq.whatsapp.com)

WhatsApp Payments (WhatsApp Pay) is a peer-to-peer money transfer feature that is currently only available in India. It is a UPI-based payments service that allows you to both send and receive money. It was developed by the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).

WhatsApp Pay allows you to send money using the Scan QR Code option as well.

WhatsApp QR Code

WhatsApp QR CodeWhatsApp QR Code. (via faq.whatsapp.com)

It helps users to share their contact details with other WhatsApp users through customised QR codes. Therefore, any user can add a contact on WhatsApp just by scanning the WhatsApp QR code.



Document sharing

Send PDFs, documents, spreadsheets, slideshows and more, without the hassle of email or file sharing apps. You can send documents up to 100 MB.

Groups chats

Keep in touch with the groups of people that matter the most, like your family or coworkers. With group chats, you can share messages, photos, and videos with up to 256 people at once. You can also name your group, mute or customize notifications, and more.

Group calling allows up to eight participants to voice call with each other using WhatsApp for free. Voice calling uses your phone’s internet connection rather than your mobile plan’s minutes. The group call feature is available for both Android and iOS users.

Dark Mode: The feature was launched for both Android and iPhone devices. But, later the dark mode feature was also rolled out for desktop WhatsApp.

The Advanced search mode is an interesting and time-saving feature. It allows users to search for pictures, videos, links and other important things within the app.

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