Facebook has agreed to buy WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock. You have already heard that one today, and read dozens of posts about it. That is exactly Ksh. 1,635,900,000,000. To put it more clearly, the sum total of the Kenyan budget for the current fiscal year or approximately 50 times the cost of building the Thika Super-highway was spent on an intangible product. Let that sink in!
What does all this really mean for us here in Kenya? For a messaging app that even my mum uses, it clearly makes more ripples than when Facebook bought Instagram for $1bn. Today, people ask for your number to WhatsApp (it’s a verb already) you, not really to call. When you are out of WhatsApp, people get concerned, like I-am-going-to-report-a-missing-person concerned. It gets worse when you don’t have the application, people think you just landed from Jupiter.
Nothing will change for us, at least that is what the WhatsApp tells us on its blog. We will probably only get more of our contacts joining our chats every day. According to WhatsApp, it “supports over 450 million monthly active users worldwide and over 320 million daily active users”. Another baffling statistic is the average 1 million new users a day registered. You can now begin to see why Zuckerberg would offer such a huge amount of money for it. Almost.
For one, WhatsApp comfortably sits in any kind of device that is not particularly high-end. Its data consumption is almost negligible. The icing on the cake is that it’s free for the first one year and a charge of $0.99 after that, although there seems to be no clear policy on renewal and payment. Besides, WhatsApp never bothers users with adverts.
WhatsApp has permeated every sector in Kenya. Switch on your TV and there will be someone hosting a show asking you to send pictures and videos to them on WhatsApp. Competitions have been built around the app i.e the Safaricom Challenge where users were urged to share videos for a chance to be aired on Citizen TV. Get aboard a bus and you will spot a WhatsApp icon on the customer feedback notice on the windows. WhatsApp is the one app that has made sharing multimedia fun, easy and affordable. What’s more, we chat with our friends and family in the diaspora conveniently at no extra charge at all, unlike SMS!
The interesting twist to the story is the fact that WhatsApp co-founder, Brian Acton was actually turned down for a job by Facebook and Twitter in 2009. How is that for a success story! So yeah, venture capitalists, partners and girls may turn you down but never let it kill your spirit.
WhatsApp and Facebook have assured us that the deal will not change anything but you know how it is in the Internet space. One minute Google is telling us that it will not bring banner ads to search and the next minute (years later) it is testing them out. All we can do is wait and see, for now.
Now wait for the memes and pictures making fun of the acquisition to reach your phone, on WhatsApp 🙂 Heck, I may as well start it.
In other news
Pinterest has updated the Pin It extension on Chrome. Version 1.3 brings with it a hovering Pin It button over most images on the web. You have the option to turn this off. You can also right click on the image and find a Pin It option. I know I have been looking for that for the longest time now.