Messaging app WhatsApp now has more users than Twitter and sends more messages than Facebook, the company’s chief executive announced Tuesday.
An app unknown to many until a year or so ago, and which remains snarled in security problems and privacy concerns, is outgrowing the most famed social media giants in the world. What’s up with that, you say?
Turns out, an almost-free messaging app that works across all smartphone platforms and can be used internationally without any additional fees is a pretty useful app. CEO Jan Koum said at the AllThingsD Dive Into Mobile conference that the app has hundreds of millions of users, beating Twitter’s 200 million active users. And with 8 billion inbound messages and 12 billion outbound daily, Koum said WhatsApp carries more messages than Facebook.
The app works like an instant messenger on iPhone, Android, Windows and BlackBerry platforms. It was completely free, but the company recently began charging users 99 cents per year. WhatsApp, founded in 2009 in Mountain View, gained traction early among international travelers, who could message without the high cost of a global cell phone plan. Today, it’s become the most-used independent smartphone app in nearly every country.
But it seems the company isn’t yet entering the well-traveled path to acquisition that many other thriving tech startups follow. Koum said rumors about a sale to Google or Facebook were false and said the company isn’t contemplating any offers.
Despite its success, WhatsApp’s record on privacy and security is pretty spotty. Earlier this year, Canadian and Dutch authorities accused the app of violating international privacy laws, as CNET reported. WhatsApp requires users to provide their entire phone book contact list – including users and non-users of the application – to the service. WhatsApp retains the numbers of nonusers (in an unreadable format) rather than deleting them.
What’s more, it was revealed in 2011 that a security hole in the WhatsApp user verification process left accounts open for hijacking. Then, in 2012, a hacker published a website (WhatsAppStatus.net) that made it possible to change any user’s status. The app was briefly pulled from the Apple App Store following the incident.