WhatsApp all about then? I just don’t get it


Obligatory WhatsApp bought by Facebook for $16-19bn post coming right up! As anyone with eyes and the power of thought will have undoubtedly noticed, that is a hell of a lot of money for what is essentially a very simple instant messenger app. And I just don’t get it.

Now I might be coming across as a grumpy, confused, out-of-touch old man in his late Sixties scratching his head through his grey hair who wouldn’t know what an app is if a Flappy Bird jumped up and bit him on the bum but to me in the age of unlimited text plans why is an instant messenger app so compelling? I txt my m8s with gay abandon, knowing I’ll never run out. And apparently so do a lot of people, somewhere to the tune of 8.6 trillion messages a year.

And I have been since I was a kid jumping between steering a one-pixel wide snake around a screen and trying to arrange punctuation marks to depict genitalia. But I suppose it’s not so much that WhatsApp is particularly radical but more that the next generation of digital natives is more used to IM that SMS – in the same way I use texts, the young whippersnappers WhatsApp away with equal abandon, with the figure for annual WhatsApp messages quoted as approaching that huge 8.6 trillion mark.

So having established people are clearly using it, why is it so bloody expensive? Well it’s a piece of piss to use for one. No faffing around with logins and the inevitable password reset email for this app – by simply possessing a phone number you can use it. A massive win in this world of obligatory Facebook logins (my particular bĂȘte bleu, like a bĂȘte noir only Facebookier) and ‘share this terrible ’80s power ballad you are listening to on Spotify’.

Ok, so Facebook isn’t so stupid as to buy something something popular for a epic sum and then turn it into its own naff IM app it already has, but where there is potential for conflict is in the same old problem everybody actually only really suffers Facebook in lieu of a better way of sharing holiday pics/ casual stalking/ not so casual perving – advertising.

CEO Jan Koum has a note (pictured) taped to his desk. Note the first one. Now the FB bods have assured Jan and his now very merry and very rich men and women (there are only 55 employees) that they won’t start adding advertising. And I’d love to believe them, I really would, but I just can’t see the company that underhandedly changes it’s privacy settings more often than Bob Crow threatens a tube strike buying an app with a window into 450 million people’s lives. It’s just too tempting – why else would they have spent so much money on it?

And they’ll kill it in the process, because the second reason WhatsApp is so popular is because it’s private. It’s a haven from big brother, sponsored posts and other digital clutter. It means your social circle’s banter doesn’t have to end when you leave the pub but neither does it mean you have to broadast it to your “friends” on FB. It’s easy to use, clean and does the job it’s supposed to do. So please leave it alone Zuckerberg and let Koum bring a bit of joy back to Facebook.

Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to get suggestive with some emojis.

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