The notoriously press-shy WhatsApp have published usage statistics, revealing to the Wall Street Journal that it now attracts more than 300 million active monthly users. Founded in 2009 by two ex-Yahoo employees Brian Acton and Jan Koum, WhatsApp is one of the earliest entrants into the field.
The competitive field of so-called ‘over the top’ (OTT) instant messaging platforms has seen explosive growth over the past couple of years, with a variety of different companies offering near-identical services and vying for dominance.
Mobile messaging service WhatsApp has announced record user numbers, after revealing that the service just processed 27 billion messages over a 24 hour period. That’s significantly up on its previous best of 18 billion from the final day of 2012.
The company has signed deals with operators across the world and has partnered handset makers — including Nokia, which built a physical WhatsApp button on the Asha 210 – in a bid to widen its base to make the service useful for increasing numbers of people.
BlackBerry, which once dominated the space, says its BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) service has 60 million users who send and receive some 10 billion messages each day.
Asia’s other messaging giants — WeChat from China, Line from Japan and India’s Nimbuzz – do not reveal message volumes, but have built impressive user bases of more than 300 million, 150 million and 150 million respectively.
Voice messaging will be especially important for many WhatsApp users whose languages can be harder to type. For instance, Koum said he has many friends that he corresponds with in Russian. It can be difficult because the Russian alphabet has 33 letters, which get compressed into narrow buttons on a touchscreen. Now that won’t be an issue, because he can just send them voice memos.
However, despite this catalogue of impressive statistics, OTT messaging will not be pushing out SMS services anytime soon. Informa analyst Pamela Clark-Dickinson even predicts that SMS revenue will continue to increase through to 2016, partly because the insularity of OTT messaging communities means that “users typically use SMS when communicating with non-OTT users” but also because “SMS is starting to hit its stride in the enterprise mobile messaging market.”