Ahead of Facebook Inc (FB) Earnings, WhatsApp Hits 500M Active Users

Ahead of Facebook Inc (FB) Earnings, WhatsApp Hits 500M Active Users
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WhatsApp reached the 500 million active monthly users milestone, and these users are sharing over 700 million photos and 100 million videos per day. WhatsApp might be gaining a lot of attention in public, but internally there is little excitement and celebration; instead, the company is trying to remove 1,000 little bugs and make improvements.

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“We’re going to get our engineers together and fix a lot of bugs,” said WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum.

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Simplicity of features main priority

Earlier, at the Mobile World Congress, Koum announced that WhatsApp will soon launch free voice calling on its platform. Prior to this, the company released a voice messaging app on the platform. There is a privacy setting in WhatsApp where users can decide who can see their status and profile photo.

Koum thinks that some changes in the WhatsApp are justified because the only hurdle in the success of the app would be complicated interface. He said that the main concern is to offer customers set of new features without compromising the simplicity of the feature as the screens are small with limited amount memory and bandwidth.

Keeping simplicity intact in the application is the prime challenge as lots of customers are buying new smart phones and coming online for the first time. Four countries where WhatsApp is experiencing growth are Mexico, Brazil, India and Russia.

India, Brazil top markets for WhatsApp

In India, WhatsApp has a customer base of 48 million active users, implying that it is the largest single country. According to Koum, the user base in India is around half of that of Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) in the country.  The application entered into deal with the network providers in the country to offer unlimited WhatsApp data usage for 30 cents per month.

Similarly, in Brazil, the customer base is huge with around 45 million active users. Koum said that the growth rate in Brazil is not like a “hockey stick,” but like a “vertical line.” Turkey has 14 million active users on WhatsApp, and the company recently hired a Turkish-speaking employee a couple of days back. Also, it is making an effort to hire customer support employees well versed in most of the languages that customers speak.

However, Whatsapp is facing stiff competition in other Asian geographies from the apps like Line, WeChat and KakaoTalk. In Japan, Thailand and Taiwan, Line has more active users than Whatsapp. In Korea, KakaoTalk reigns while WeChat is more popular in China.

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Aman is MBA (Finance) with an experience on both Marketing and Finance side. He has worked as a Risk Analyst for AIR Worldwide, and is currently leading VeRa FinServ, a Financial Research firm. Favorite pastimes include watching science fiction movies, reviewing tech gadgets, playing PC games and cricket. - Email him at amanjain@valuewalk.com
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