Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg sees privacy-focused communications as the future of social networking, with messaging playing a key role - and WhatsApp, Facebook's largest messaging platform, is central to that shift.
And this week, the significance of WhatsApp has been underlined once again, with the messaging app reaching a new user milestone of 2 billion monthly actives.
As per WhatsApp:
"We're excited to share that, as of today, WhatsApp supports more than two billion users around the world. Mothers and fathers can reach their loved ones no matter where they are. Brothers and sisters can share moments that matter. Coworkers can collaborate, and businesses can grow by easily connecting with their customers. Private conversations that once were only possible face-to-face can now take place across great distances through instant chats and video calling. There are so many significant and special moments that take place over WhatsApp and we are humbled and honored to reach this milestone."
As you can see in the above chart, while Messenger is more commonly used in western markets, WhatsApp is now significantly larger overall, and it continues to gain traction in developing markets.
WhatsApp hit 1.5 billion users back in 2018, so it's taken two years to reach this next stage, but as noted, it's now starting to gain more momentum in regions like India, where Facebook is already looking at the next stage, and how it can expand into WhatsApp business use.
That remains a key challenge - last month, Facebook announced that it would back away from plans to roll out ads in WhatsApp threads, a key monetization opportunity for the app. Instead, Facebook appears to be looking to shopping as its next step, buying up eCommerce providers and tools which are already tapping into WhatsApp to connect with consumers.
If Facebook can encourage more shopping activity in developing regions, that could make WhatsApp a key connector moving forward - and if Facebook can also facilitate funds transfer, through either it's Libra cryptocurrency or WhatsApp Pay, it could be the best way forward for WhatsApp monetization.
And as underlined by the numbers here, that opportunity is massive. WhatsApp has presented challenges for Facebook in regards to maximizing its revenue potential, but the indicators would suggest that Facebook is closing in on the next opportunity - and stands to see huge benefit, if it can get it right.
Privacy limitations have also caused Facebook to re-think its traditional monetization approach, and that doesn't look set to change. Initially, there were concerns that Facebook would weaken WhatsApp's privacy measures, including end-to-end encryption, but more recently, Facebook has actually doubled-down on this approach.
WhatsApp has reiterated its stance on the same within its announcement:
"Strong encryption is a necessity in modern life. We will not compromise on security because that would make people less safe. For even more protection, we work with top security experts, employ industry-leading technology to stop misuse as well as provide controls and ways to report issues - without sacrificing privacy."
It's amazing to consider just how many people are actually logging onto Facebook-owned apps every day.
The numbers are repeated so often that they lose impact, but across Facebook's family of apps, some 2.26 billion people - close to 30% of the entire population of the world (7.76b) - are now interacting in a Facebook app every single day.
When you also consider that around 26% of people are under the age of 15, and 40% of the world's population cannot access the internet, the numbers are staggering - Facebook's unmatched reach is truly amazing, and a massive achievement in its own right.
WhatsApp is a key part of this. And with new opportunities coming, it looks set to become an even bigger platform moving forward.