How WhatsApp became the world’s default communication app

In 2014 Narrative As part of an internship application, he asked me to write a few lines about my most used software. I wrote about WhatsApp because it was a no-brainer. I was an international student from India and it was my wife for my family and my boyfriend, now my wife, who lived on the other side of the world. “This cross-platform messenger gets all the credit for my two-year long-distance relationship, and it’s still going strong,” I wrote in my application. “Skype is great, Google+ Hangouts is the best thing to happen since Gmail, but nothing says ‘I love you’ like a WhatsApp text message.”

A few months after this experience, Facebook announced that it was buying WhatsApp for $19 billion. In Narrative‘s newsroom, there were audible gasps at the price tag of this seemingly small player. American journalists were not completely familiar with WhatsApp. But the rest of the world has two former Yahoo! engineers NarrativeMountain View backyard.

Text messages were one of the few things you could do on WhatsApp in 2014. There were no emojis you could react to, no hi-res videos you could send, no GIFs or stickers, no read receipts until the end of that year, and certainly no voice or video calls. However, more than 500 million people around the world enjoyed the freedom of using the new mobile data to exchange unlimited messages with friends and family instead of paying mobile operators for every text.

WhatsApp founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton launched the app in 2009 simply to display status messages next to people’s names in a phone’s contact book. But after Apple introduced push notifications on the iPhone later that year, it became a full-fledged messaging service. Now, 15 years later, WhatsApp has become more than that – an integral part of the propaganda machine of political parties. India and Brazila way for millions of people enterprises a way to reach customers send money to people and merchants, a distribution platform for publications, brands and influencers, a video conferencing system and a personal social network older adults. And it’s still a great way for long-distance lovers to stay in touch.

“WhatsApp is kind of a media platform and kind of a messaging platform, but it’s not that much,” said Princeton researcher Surya Mattu, who runs the university’s Digital Witness Lab, which studies how information flows through WhatsApp. Engadget. “A social media platform has scale, but it doesn’t have the traditional problems because there are no recommendations and no social graph.”

Indeed, WhatsApp’s scale dwarfs almost every other social networking and messaging app out there. WhatsApp in 2020 announced it had more than two billion users worldwide. It is bigger than iMessage (1.3 billion users), TikTok (1 billion), Telegram (800 million), Snap (400 million) and Signal (40 million). It stands above the Instagram Meta platform, which has nearly 1.4 billion users. users. The only thing It is bigger than WhatsApp is Facebook itself, which has more than three billion users.

WhatsApp has become the world’s default communication platform. Ten years after its acquisition, its growth shows no signs of stopping. Even in the US, it’s finally starting to break through the green and blue bubble battles and is reportedly one of Meta’s fastest growing services. Like Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg he said the New York Times last year, WhatsApp became the “next chapter” for the company.

Will Cathcart, a longtime Meta executive who took over WhatsApp in 2019 after the original founders left the company, attributes WhatsApp’s early global growth to its free (or nearly free) nature. it reliably delivers messages to almost any phone, including millions of low-end Android devices around the world, even across large areas of the planet with suboptimal network conditions, and best of all, it’s very simple, free of the bells and whistles that plague most other messaging apps. . In 2013, a year before Facebook acquired it, WhatsApp added the ability to send short audio messages.

“It was really powerful,” Cathcart told Engadget, “People who aren’t highly literate or new to the internet can start WhatsApp and use it for the first time and understand it.”

WhatsApp in 2016 he added end-to-end encryption, something Cathcart said was a big selling point. This feature turned WhatsApp into a black box, hiding the content of messages from everyone except the sender and recipient, even from WhatsApp itself. In the same year, WhatsApp announced one billion people use the service every month, he said.

This explosive growth has come with a major downside: As hundreds of millions of people in densely populated regions like Brazil and India went online for the first time thanks to cheap smartphones and data prices, WhatsApp became a conduit for fraud and misinformation. let it flow freely. The app that is WhatsApp’s largest market with over 700 million users in India now overflowed cheered on nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accused of destroying the country’s secular fabric with propaganda and disinformation against opposition political parties.

Then people started dying. In 2017 and 2018, angry mobs spread unsubstantiated rumors of child abductions in remote parts of the country via WhatsApp, lynched About twenty people in 13 separate incidents. In response to the crisis, WhatsApp took action. Among other things, it made significant changes to the product, e.g clear labeling forwarded messages—the main way misinformation spreads across the service—also severely limited the number of people and groups users can forward content to at once.

program in Brazil widely seen as a key tool in the 2018 victory of the country’s former president, Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro was a far-right strongman accused Forcing his supporters to run elaborate disinformation campaigns, bypassing WhatsApp’s spam controls and blasting thousands of WhatsApp messages attacking his rival, Fernando Haddad.

Following these incidents, WhatsApp established fact-checking partnerships with more than 50 fact-checking organizations globally (since WhatsApp is encrypted, fact-checkers depend on users reporting messages to WhatsApp hotlines and respond with fact-checking). It also made additional product changes, such as quickly sending users a forwarded message to Google for in-app fact-checking. “Over time, there may be more things we can do,” Cathcart said, including using artificial intelligence to help WhatsApp fact-check. “There’s a lot of interesting things we can do there, I don’t think we’re done,” he said.

Recently, WhatsApp has been rapidly adding new features, such as large files, messages that automatically destroy after being viewed, Instagram-like Stories (called Statuses), and larger group calls, among other features. But in the fall of 2023, a new feature called Channels rolled out globally score To WhatsApp’s ambitions to be more than just a messaging app. WhatsApp Channels described, a blog post announces its launch as “a one-way broadcast tool for admins to send text, photos, videos, stickers, and requests.” They’re a bit like a Twitter feed of brands, publishers and people you’ve chosen to follow. There is a special tab in WhatsApp, although the interaction with the content is limited to replying with emoji – there is no reply. WhatsApp currently has thousands of Channels, and more than 250 channels have more than a million followers each, WhatsApp told Engadget. Among them are Puerto Rican rapper Bad Bunny (18.9 million followers), Narendra Modi (13.8 million followers), FC Barcelona (27.7 million followers) and WWE (10.9 million followers). Although it’s early days, Channels are quickly becoming a way for publishers to distribute their content and build an audience.

“It took us a year to reach 35,000 at Telegram,” said Rachel Banning-Lover, head of social media and development. Financial Times (155,000 followers) he said Nieman Laboratory in November. “In comparison, we [grew] a follower of similar size [on WhatsApp] in two weeks.”

WhatsApp’s success in consistently adding new functionality without succumbing to feature expansion has allowed it to grow both among its core audience and, more recently, among users in the United States. In January 2024, WhatsApp had about 83 million users in the US, up from 80 million a year earlier, according to data shared with Engadget by analytics firm A few years ago, WhatsApp ran away An ad campaign in the US – the first in the country – billboards and TV spots where the app focuses on privacy.

This is a sentiment shared by Zuckerberg himself in 2021. shared “a privacy-focused review for the social network,” on Facebook’s page. “I believe the future of communication will increasingly move to private, encrypted services where people can be confident that what they say to each other will remain secure and that their messages and content will not,” he said. “This is the future, I hope we can help.”

Meta has now started using WhatsApp’s massive scale to generate revenue, although it’s not yet clear how much money the app makes. “The business model that we’re really excited about and that we’ve been developing successfully for several years is helping people talk to businesses on WhatsApp,” Cathcart said. “It’s a great experience.” Meta monetizes WhatsApp by paying large companies to directly integrate the platform into the existing systems they use to manage customer interactions. And it integrates the entire system with Facebook, allowing businesses to post ads on Facebook that, when clicked, open directly into a WhatsApp chat. According to the company, these have become the fastest growing ad format in Meta The New York Times.

A few years ago, Facebook’s internal network underwent a configuration change beat Many Facebook services, including WhatsApp, went offline for more than six hours and the world came to a standstill.

“It’s like turning off your phone and all your loved ones’ phones without warning. [WhatsApp] it essentially operates as an unregulated utility,” – journalist Aura Bogado reported He wrote on X (then Twitter). In New Delhi and Brazil, gig workers were unable to reach customers and lost their wages. Cryptocurrency is traded in London stopped because traders could not communicate with customers. One firm claimed a 15 percent reduction. Oil markets in Russia they were shot after traders were unable to contact buyers who placed orders in Europe and Asia.

15 years after its inception, the messaging app now rules the world.

Engadget 20th anniversary bannerEngadget 20th anniversary banner

Note Engadget’s 20th Anniversarywe’ve been revisiting products and services that have changed the industry since March 2, 2004.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *