Editorial by Andrew Kameka on Thursday February 20, 2014.
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Facebook has announced that it plans to purchase mobile messaging app WhatsApp for $19 billion in cash and stock. The news instantly sparked conversation about the staggering price, the many messaging apps now facing certain death, the many messaging apps now facing a higher price tag for possible suitors, and promises from people who swore they would quit using WhatsApp. Will those people remain true to their word? Probably not.
Facebook has earned itself a very negative reputation among the tech elite and the "normals" who use tech everyday, so when Facebook swoops in to purchase a company that those people love, people instantly yell that they will stop using the product. The same is true of Google, as we saw when people were angered by the company's acquisition of Nest. As much as these people might think they are making an important statement or protest by promising to not use the product, the companies who sell out to Facebook don't care because those apps get bigger and better post acquisition. Many of the people I know who swore of Instagram post-Facebook are still around posting photos of their food and feet on the beach, feeding into the 150 million people who use Instagram - three times the number of people who used it when Facebook came calling in 2012.
So now that WhatsApp has folks promising to never use the messaging client again, I'm sure no one is losing any sleep over those threats, and the reason is simple: you can't quit something unless you're willing to be out of the loop. Good or bad, most people with access to the web have no problem with Facebook. They continue to post their photos on Instagram and Facebook, so the people connected to them have no choice. If I want to see photos my nephews, who live 1,000 and 6,000 miles away from me, I have to go to the place where their mothers post photos. They aren't on Google+, so I have no choice but to put up with Facebook. The same is true with WhatsApp.
WhatsApp exploded in popularity because it achieved a level of use across multiple platforms unlike several other apps. While BlackBerry took years to recognize the value of putting BBM on Android and iPhone, WhatsApp was able to support free messaging at the height of the silly TeamDroid vs. TeamiPhone debate. Teams didn't matter because everyone could communicate without having to rely on SMS. For people who have friends outside of the US, where WhatsApp enjoys considerably higher visibility, there's even more reason to use the app. People have established their group communication on WhatsApp, and the odds of getting everyone in your circuit to migrate are slim.
Sure, you could stop using WhatsApp, but if the people you care to talk to continue using the app for group discussions, event planning, and staying in touch, are you really prepared to be out of the loop? The company has 450 million global users, mainly in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. Facebook estimates that WhatsApp will reach 1 billion users by 2016. Odds are that most of the people you know will be among that billion. Unless Facebook drastically alters WhatsApp, something the company won't do any time soon, you'll want to be able to talk to them. People who already use WhatsApp regularly will still use WhatsApp, even if it's begrudgingly.
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.