According to those sources, Facebook has been in talks to purchase the company behind the wildly popular messenger app. WhatsApp, which has apps on every major mobile operating system (even Symbian) gained attention and success through being a low-cost alternative to SMS, especially for those living or traveling abroad. The $0.99 app grants free unlimited messaging from anywhere in the world over a data network or Wi-Fi using the person’s actual mobile phone number, provided that both sender and recipient have WhatsApp installed.
If the deal happens, it would be Facebook’s second high-profile acquisition, following the company’s purchase of Instagram for $1 billion in April of this year. It would also represent a first for Facebook – its first paid product, as it would begin to see revenue from app sales of WhatsApp, which is said to have 100 million active daily users from all across the globe. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has talked frequently about his company’s need to tap into the mobile market, something Facebook has often struggled with, particularly with their oft-criticized mobile apps.
It’s tough to say if the deal would pan out well for Facebook. The success of WhatsApp is well-documented, but that success is in the past and present. As many companies have learned, past and present success doesn’t mean as much as it used to in the tech world – just ask Zynga, and their disastrous acquisition of OMGPOP and their one-time hit, Draw Something. WhatsApp has a lot of competition in the market, and there’s a lot of suspicion when it comes to Facebook and privacy. And privacy, though it largely remains in tatters thanks to the nature of the online advertising business, is still important to millions of people – maybe important enough to get them to look elsewhere should a deal for WhatsApp go down.
At some point, one has to wonder whether or not the Facebook name might end up being Facebook’s biggest liability as a publicly traded company.