Who Owns WhatsApp? A History of the Most Popular Messaging App in the World

It's grown extensively over the years

Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp is simple to understand and entirely free to use. All you need is a compatible smartphone and a phone number to use it. Here's a look at how WhatsApp was founded, its links with Facebook, as well as how many messages are sent each day via the service. 

How Was WhatsApp Founded? 

WhatsApp was founded by former Yahoo! employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum in 2009. The pair spotted the app industry's potential thanks to the App Store on iOS and began formulating a plan to create an instant messaging app. The app was launched exclusively on the App Store for iPhone owners in August 2009 before being released for Android in August 2010. By February 2013, it had around 200 million active users and was valued at $1.5 billion. By the end of 2013, it had reached 400 million active users.

Originally a text messaging-only service, voice messaging was added in 2013, and voice calls in 2015. Video calls were added in late 2016, with group calls introduced in 2018.

Does Facebook Own WhatsApp?

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in February 2014 for $19 billion. It became one of a string of Facebook-owned apps that also includes major photo-sharing social networking app, Instagram

Originally, it charged a $1 annual subscription fee, but this charge was dropped in January 2016 in a bid to remove barriers to users interested in signing up to WhatsApp.

In September 2017, co-founder Brian Acton left the company reportedly due to a dispute with how Facebook wished to monetize WhatsApp. He moved on to start a new foundation, the Signal Foundation, responsible for the privacy-conscious instant messaging app, Signal. 

In April 2018, Jan Koum left WhatsApp and became a philanthropist supporting numerous charitable causes. 

WhatsApp has continued to add features since its co-founders left Facebook. These include group audio and video calls, sticker supports, a dark mode, and the ability to mute nuisance users permanently. 

In January 2021, it was announced WhatsApp would implement a new privacy policy that would allow the service to share data with Facebook. The new policy doesn't apply in the EU as it clashes with the continent's GDPR policy, but it will apply elsewhere in the world. The privacy policy has been delayed until May 15, 2021, due to a backlash from users and a lack of clarity about its meaning.

How Many Messages Are Sent Daily via WhatsApp?

Facebook announced in an October 2020 financial conference call that 100 billion WhatsApp messages were sent every day across the world. That's the equivalent of 69 million messages every minute.  Alongside that, around 2 billion minutes are spent making WhatsApp voice and video calls each day.

How Does WhatsApp Make Money?

Technically, WhatsApp doesn't make any money. It hasn't done so since removing its subscription fee. 

WhatsApp Business is free for small businesses but offers more advanced services to medium and large firms for a price. 

Click to WhatsApp ads on Facebook redirect users from Facebook to WhatsApp and can be beneficial for companies. 

For the most part, Facebook and WhatsApp profit in a non-monetary sense by having access to billions of users and potentially having access to their contact lists. For now, that and other data haven't been used to improve consumer targeting in Facebook ads, but that could change with 2021's privacy policy tweak. In all cases, though, WhatsApp offers end-to-end encryption so that no information can be gleaned from your messages. 

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