April 18, 2013
WhatsApp CEO Channels John Lennon, Claims To Be Bigger Than Twitter
He’s no John Lennon, but WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum has no problem making claims that his company is the biggest thing around.
During this week’s D: Dive Into Mobile conference, hosted by the Wall Street Journal’s All Things D, Koum boasted that his company has already grown larger than popular microblogging service Twitter, sending more than 20 billion messages a day. As they’ve been growing, WhatsApp has also been making headlines, particularly when it comes to which company will inevitably buyout the messaging app. At the end of 2012, a mobile analyst claimed that online messaging services such as Apple’s iMessage and WhatsApp are effectively killing SMS text messages, thereby taking a good amount of easy money from mobile carriers’ pockets.
Twitter most recently claimed that they have about 200 million active users every month. Koum said yesterday that his company is responsible for processing eight billion inbound messages and 12 billion outbound messages every day. These numbers are so lopsided because WhatsApp users will often send the same message multiple times in group conversations.
Koum believes the low price of WhatsApp in conduction with their self-proclaimed manifesto against advertising is what’s made his app so popular. As it stands, users on multiple platforms can download the app for free and try it out for a year without paying a dime. After that year, WhatsApp asks for an annual subscription of just $1. WhatsApp users on an iOS device have to pay this .99 cents up front, but only have to pay once without a subscription. The company did announce last month, however, that even their iOS customers will soon have to pay the $1 annual subscription fee beginning next year. Those who have already purchased the app for .99 cents will be grandfathered into the new pay structure.
According to inside sources, asking for just one dollar has been a very successful business model for WhatsApp thus far. The company has been rumored to bring in roughly $100 million a year from these subscription fees.
The company adamantly opposes advertising, a proposed sticking point when rumors surfaced that Facebook wanted to buy the company. Koum believes that enough people will be romanced by the idea of a $1 per year ad-free service that the numbers will work out to their favor in the end.
“We’re looking forward to a world with billions of phones,” Koum said in his interview with All Things D.
“And once that happens it’s going to be extremely easy to monetize. But a lot more people need to join the smartphone revolution and a lot more people need to buy more goods on their phones.”
In terms of advertising, Koum has no trouble calling his anti-ad philosophy a “manifesto.”
“We do have a manifesto opposing advertising,” said Koum.
“We’re proud of that. Who likes advertising? We’re so bombarded with ads so much in our daily lives and we felt that smartphones aren’t the place for that. Our phones are so intimately connected to us, to our lives. Putting advertising on a device like that is a bad idea. You don’t want to be interrupted by ads when you’re chatting with your loved ones.”