The Evolution of WhatsApp

WhatsApp – the instant messaging platform is one of the most popular apps with a user base of 1 billion in 180 countries. Starting as an alternative to SMS in 2009, today WhatsApp has revolutionised the messaging platforms. It now has the support to send and receive a variety of media: text, photos, videos, documents, and location, as well as voice calls. Let’s have a look at the business model of WhatsApp and how it became popular:

It all began in 2009, when two former employees of Yahoo – Brian Acton and Jan Koum decided to work on WhatsApp. The iOS App was launched first in order to target the US Market. Later, the Symbian version was launched in 2010. Android was growing at that time and hence they decided to quickly come up with a version for the OS. The Windows Phone and Blackberry 10 version was launched in 2013. The Windows Phone and Blackberry 10 version was launched in 2013. They initially charged WhatsApp users based on first time installation (for iPhone users) and every year (for Android).

One of the main reasons for the success of WhatsApp was due to its simplicity. It was simple, secure, and fast. It was also free to use. The developers from their previous experience knew that users didn’t like ads and hence decided not to have any ads in the app. The major milestone for WhatsApp was the acquisition by Facebook in 2014 for $19 billion – the largest acquisition to date.

Initially, it was an instant messaging app and the ability to send photos was one of the first feature addition. The ability to send GIF images was released in 2016. Group chat feature was launched in 2010. Voice messaging feature & support for Android Wear Smartwatches were added in 2013.

After the acquisition by Facebook, WhatsApp underwent major changes to support voice calls, Read receipts feature & WhatsApp web. This created a havoc among telecom operators who were already unhappy with WhatsApp replacing SMS to a great extent. More features like End-to-end encryption, document sharing, video calling and two step verification were added in 2016. In 2017, a Snapchat like feature called “Status” was added to WhatsApp. Users can upload an image that allows users to upload photos and videos to a 24-hours-lifetime feed that is visible to their contacts.

However, there are many issues related to the security and privacy. On 25th August 2016, WhatsApp changed its privacy policy to allow sharing of data from WhatsApp to Facebook. This was a concern for users since data sharing affected privacy. WhatsApp also offers measures such as two-step verification and encryption. In January 2017, an article published in the Guardian claimed loopholes in WhatsApp’s end to end encryption. WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption protocol was developed by Open Whisper Systems, who make their own secure messaging app Signal. Finally, the introduction of ‘read’ and ‘seen’ features were perceived not very privacy friendly.

What’s the future for WhatsApp ?

WhatsApp will continue to add more features with the upcoming updates. Change is inevitable part of any app development and they have to stay ahead with the competition to survive.

WhatsApp is expected to launch payments soon in India. They have obtained permission from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to allow users to make in-app payments and money transfers using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). WhatsApp will also soon launch support for business verified accounts on its platform.

The Application to Person (A2P) messaging market is innovating rapidly and we may see big changes very soon. Currently, it’s difficult for WhatsApp to allow third-party app integration due to privacy and encryption concerns. However, this is expected to change by WhatsApp opening it for developers. This will help integrated apps to WhatsApp and it could have a Chatbot feature like Facebook Messenger. WhatsApp may also have a Natural Language Processing (NLP)/AI integration that will provide assistant to the user when he types in the chat. You never know, WhatsApp may even turn into an e-commerce portal and even allow you to purchase online by messaging.

WhatsApp is also expected to become more personalised. The app in future will learn about a consumer’s preferences and offer deals based on their geographical location. In the long term, we can expect WhatsApp will evolve into something greater than just a messaging platform.

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