WhatsApp is a messaging app for smartphones created in 2009 by two former Yahoo employees, Brian Acton and Jan Koum.
It was Koum who saw the potential of operating through the Apple App Store after purchasing an iPhone in early 2009. The app initially focused on statuses; Koum later revealed that part of his motivation was to stop missing calls will he was the gym.
The app, developed by Igor Solomennikov, who the team found through RentACoder.com, leveraged Apple’s new push notification feature to update users’ networks with status updates. Users quickly came to use this as an instant messaging service, planting the seed for what the app would become. WhatsApp 2.0 incorporated the messaging function that would come to be the app’s defining feature.
WhatsApp was unique at the time, outside of Blackberry’s BBM, in providing a free message service that allowed users to log in with their phone number. WhatsApp 2.0 was an instant success, quickly reaching 250,000 active users. This was enough for Acton to convince a circle of fellow ex-Yahoo employees to part with $250,000 in seed funding.
WhatsApp incorporated multimedia messaging later in the same year, and was released on Android the following. From that point, WhatsApp marched to ubiquitous status, ranking in the top three most-downloaded apps on both iOS and Android. By October 2011, one billion messages were being sent per day; by early 2013, WhatsApp could boast 200 million active users. That figure is impressive enough, but by the end of 2017, WhatsApp was up to 1.5 billion active monthly users.
Naturally, this growth has attracted money – even with practically non-existent WhatsApp revenue. Venture capital titans Sequoia Capital invested $8 million in April 2011 after eight months of negotiations, and a further $52 million in February 2013. This gave us a WhatsApp valuation of $1.5 billion.
By this point it wasn’t only venture capital firms who were interested in the messaging service. Facebook clearly saw WhatsApp as a potential threat to its own offering, and therefore flexed its muscles. In February 2014, it moved to acquire WhatsApp for $19 billion – which remains its largest acquisition to date and one of the largest tech acquisitions in history.
This has caused some degree of controversy related to data sharing with the parent company, despite promises of increasing levels of encryption, reportedly end-to-end by 2016. Both founders have left the company based on these concerns.
WhatsApp, however, remains the market leader its sector. Since its simple beginnings, it has added features such as voice calling, video calling, group calls (video and voice), and in early 2018 launched WhatsApp Business. It has also added payments in its two biggest markets, India and Brazil.
Worldwide, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging service in over 100 countries. It has over 2.5 billion active users and is one of the few apps to be downloaded over five billion times.
We have collected data and statistics on WhatsApp. Read on below to find out more.
WhatsApp key statistics
- WhatsApp has over two billion users worldwide, with 390 million in India alone
- WhatsApp is one of the few apps to be downloaded over five billion times on Android and iOS
- It is the most popular app in over 100 countries (SimilarWeb)
- Experts estimate that WhatsApp generated between $5 and $10 billion for Facebook in 2020
|Launch date||24 February 2009|
|HQ||Menlo Park, California|
|People||Will Cathcart (head of WhatsApp), Brian Acton (co-founder), Jan Koum (co-founder)|
Note: Since the Facebook acquisition in 2014, WhatsApp revenue has not been publicised. All values are estimates, based on the activity of WhatsApp for Business and other WhatsApp advertising programs.
Sources: Forbes, WhatsApp
Sources: Facebook, WhatsApp
WhatsApp users by country
|United States||75 million|
|United Kingdom||30 million|
WhatsApp downloads (total)
Sources: App Annie, Facebook, Sensor Tower
WhatsApp vs competitors: users
What years was WhatsApp the most downloaded app globally?
In 2017 and 2019, WhatsApp was the most downloaded app globally, with 924 and 850 million downloads, respectively.
What percentage of internet users use WhatsApp?
Excluding China, 69 percent of internet users use WhatsApp (GlobalWebIndex)
How much activity is there on WhatsApp each day?
Over 100 billion WhatsApp messages are sent and over two billion minutes are spent on WhatsApp voice and video calls per day (Facebook)
How many countries is WhatsApp available in?
WhatsApp is available in 180 countries and in 60 languages
How much did Facebook pay for WhatsApp?
Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014