Remember paying for texts? WhatsApp hits 1bn users

2 Feb 2016

Facebook’s domination of social media has never been more emphatic, it seems, as WhatsApp has announced it has 1bn users around the world, a significant landmark for the instant messaging service.

Facebook ‘reaches’ 1bn users a day around the world. That’s Big Brother (1985 book, not reality TV) numbers. Its quarterly revenues are several billion dollars a pop and its Messenger app is used by 800m monthly users.

That, alone, is remarkable. However, when you add in WhatsApp, which Facebook bought back in 2014 for an estimated $19bn, the figures are even more emphatic. Especially now that WhatsApp has reported, for the first time, that it has hit 1bn monthly active users.

Free and easy

For those unaware, WhatsApp is a messaging tool that is free, looks well and is incredibly simple to dive into. It has replaced SMS texting – which can be oppressively costly – in many areas of society.

Last month, its nominal 99c subscription fee was scrapped and, quite incredibly, it says it has no plans to host third-party ads.

Jan Koum, the head of WhatsApp, says it has 1bn users, while the WhatsApp blog says 1bn people, which are two completely different things. However, for the sake of marketing, the company claims that one in seven people on the planet are using its service.

“We still have another 6bn people to get on WhatsApp,” reads the celebratory post, claiming its original ethos of ensuring that anyone could stay in touch with family and friends “anywhere on the planet, without costs or gimmicks standing in the way, “ remains true.

An upward curve

WhatsApp’s user base has rocketed up since Facebook’s acquisition, with it logging around 450m active monthly users at the time. Facebook’s app has 1.5bn active monthly users, while Messenger’s rising numbers aren’t far behind.

Should Instagram follow suit, then Facebook will further strengthen its position at the top of the social media pyramid.


Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg was full of praise for Koum and his team, noting a particular example of how WhatsApp vastly improved immediate communications worldwide.

“In January this year, a 16-year-old girl in Mumbai needed a new heart,” wrote Sandberg in a Facebook post.

Global reach

“She’d already survived cancer, but the chemotherapy had taken its toll. Finding a match is always a race against time. When a donor was discovered hundreds of miles away, the medics acted fast.

“They used a WhatsApp group to co-ordinate organ donations and organise transport. A few hours later, doctors successfully carried out the first paediatric heart transplant in Mumbai.”

The service supports 53 languages, with 1.6bn photos shared daily. 42bn messages are sent every 24 hours and there are 1bn groups – which is where WhatsApp really shines.

How will Facebook monetise the service? Well, it’s hard to tell at the moment, but the latest plans seem to be around charging businesses, or utilising it as customer support to add value to the overall operation.

But, in the meantime, just keep enjoying that free messaging, if you like.

Main WhatsApp image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic