"450. WhatsApp has more than 450 million active users, and reached that number faster than any other company in history. It was just nine months ago that WhatsApp announced 200 million active users, which was already more than Twitter. Every day, more than a million people install the app and start chatting, and they remain more engaged with WhatsApp than on any other service. Incredibly, the number of daily active users of WhatsApp (compared to those who log in every month) has climbed to 72%. In contrast the industry standard is between 10% and 20%, and only a handful of companies top 50%.
WhatsApp has tapped into our insatiable appetite for personal communication. It is part of a chain that over the past 150 years reaches from the Pony Express, Telegraph and airmail letter to the telephone and email. WhatsApp has become today’s flag-bearer for personal communications.
Jan and Brian’s product caters to those you care about most: the people in the address book on your phone. WhatsApp is simple, secure, and fast. It does not ask you to spend time building up a new graph of your relationships; instead, it taps the one that’s already there. Jan and Brian’s decisions are fueled by a desire to let people communicate with no interference.
32. Even by the standards of the world’s best technology companies, WhatsApp runs lean. With only 32 engineers, one WhatsApp developer supports 14 million active users, a ratio unheard of in the industry. (WhatsApp’s support team is even smaller.) This L E G E N D A R Y crew has built a reliable, low-latency service that processes 50 billion messages every day across seven platforms using Erlang, an unusual but particularly well-suited choice. All that, while maintaining greater than 99.9% uptime, so users can rely on WhatsApp the way they depend on a dial-tone.
The note on Jan’s desk
1. Jan keeps a note from Brian taped to his desk that reads “No Ads! No Games! No Gimmicks!” It serves as a daily reminder of their commitment to stay focused on building a pure messaging experience.
This discipline is reflected in WhatsApp’s unconventional approach to business. After one year of free use, the service costs $1 per year — with no SMS charges. This can save users trapped in expensive data plans up to $150 per year.
It’s easy to take this novel model for granted. When we first partnered with WhatsApp in January 2011, it had more than a dozen direct competitors, and all were supported by advertising. (In Botswana alone there were 16 social messaging apps). Jan and Brian ignored conventional wisdom. Rather than target users with ads — an approach they had grown to dislike during their time at Yahoo — they chose the opposite tack and charged a dollar for a product that is based on knowing as little about you as possible. WhatsApp does not collect personal information like your name, gender, address, or age. Registration is authenticated using a phone number, a significant innovation that eliminates the frustration of remembering a username and password. Once delivered, messages are deleted from WhatsApp’s servers.
It’s a decidedly contrarian approach shaped by Jan’s experience growing up in a communist country with a secret police. Jan’s childhood made him appreciate communication that was not bugged or taped. When he arrived in the U.S. as a 16-year-old immigrant living on food stamps, he had the extra incentive of wanting to stay in touch with his family in Russia and the Ukraine. All of this was top of mind for Jan when, after years of working together with his mentor Brian at Yahoo, he began to build WhatsApp.
Facebook has assured Jan and Brian that WhatsApp will remain ad free and they will not have to compromise on their principles. We know that Jan, as a new member of Facebook’s board, will continue to champion the rights of WhatsApp users.
0. There may be no greater testament to the viral nature of WhatsApp than the fact that the company has accomplished all this without investing a penny in marketing. Unlike their smaller competitors, it hasn’t spent anything on user acquisition. The company doesn’t even employ a marketer or PR person. Yet like the world’s greatest brands, it’s created a strong emotional connection with consumers. All of WhatsApp’s growth has come from happy customers encouraging their friends to try the service."