Happy Friday! Today is WhatsApp monthly active user number update time, folks. The Facebook-owned messaging service, which doesn’t yet have a business model, has now crossed 900 million MAUs, as CEO, co-founder and (now) Facebook board member Jan Koum revealed on Facebook. (Of course.)
The app reached 800 million actives back in April, some four and a half months ago. Prior to that, it went from 700 million to 800 million in three months, and 600 million to 700 million in just under three months. No surprises there folks, scaling gets progressively harder the larger your userbase is — but reaching 900 million active users remains truly a feat that few services can achieve in this day and age.
What will be interesting for WhatsApp, is that it might soon actually start making money. To this point, the app had charged users $1 per year, with the first year free, but that model appeared to be dropped after Facebook bought the company for $19 billion last year.
Mark Zuckerberg previously said that “there are many clear ways that we can monetize” once a product hits one billion users, and that figure is just over the hill for WhatsApp, assuming that it maintains its impressive growth.
So, how will Facebook monetize WhatsApp?
That’s open to debate — particularly since Koum and his team have adamantly said “No ads! No games! No gimmicks!” inside their app — but the clues are to be found in the Facebook Messenger platform. Inspired by messaging apps in Asia that act as mobile internet portals for hundreds of millions of people, Facebook wants to use its chat app to help brands and consumers connect and generally be the first point of contact with the internet, as is the case with its new ‘M’ personal concierge service.
The logical move would be to extend that model to cover WhatsApp. Messenger has 700 million active users, so adding WhatsApp would vastly increase the reach of the Messenger platform and make it even more appealing to developers, brands and others from whom Facebook can draw revenue it is ready to switch the monetization tap on.
I still think that, with WhatsApp struggling to dominate the U.S. market and its userbase spread right across the world, it might not be as easy as many people assume. You can read my thoughts on this subject from April if you are so inclined.