WhatsApp has hit the 1 billion monthly active user mark, validating Facebook’s $22 billion acquisition of the platform in 2014. However, the company has yet to determine its road map for profitability.
Since its founding in 2009, WhatsApp has become not only the top mobile messaging app, but also the second-most popular app in the world. For some demographics, such as Spanish women and German teens, WhatsApp is even more popular than parent Facebook.
With Facebook’s investment in messaging seemingly paying off, other social platforms are emphasizing their messaging capabilities in an attempt to remain relevant. Twitter removed its Direct Message character limit in 2015, and Instagram also updated its messaging functionality to allow image sharing.
Yet unlike those platforms, which let brands pay for advertising, WhatsApp remains primarily a communication platform for individuals. The company aims to monetize its offering without resorting to third-party ads – limiting its profitability in comparison with Gmail, which also joined the billion users club this week.
To that end, WhatsApp could evolve into a space for businesses to interact with customers – similar to what WeChat already offers in China. Brands already experimenting with this functionality include Dutch airline KLM, which uses WhatsApp to let frequent flyers inquire about upgrades and seat selection.
“We see people moving from traditional social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to new platforms, such as WeChat in China and WhatsApp,” KLM spokesman Joost Ruempol told USA Today.