The mobile messaging app WhatsApp hit 900 million active users this month. Owned by Facebook, the messaging service allows cross-platform texting, usually among groups, without charging SMS fees, so anyone with any kind of phone can talk together in one seamless chat. It is the most popular messaging app right now, second only to Facebook's own messaging app (700 million users).
What the company doesn't have, though, is a business model. Now that 2015's numbers have shown a precipitous rise in growth (the app hit 800 million active users per month just last April), the next question is how the company plans to monetize those numbers. In the past users have paid a $1 yearly subscription fee. But after the company was purchased for $19 billion in 2014, plans for the company's monetization lie with Zuckerberg and company.
Strategies for this are up for debate. WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum keeps a note from co-founder Brian Acton taped to his desk that reads "No ads! No games! No gimmicks!" Other messaging services like Line and WeChat have reaped over 100 million per quarter through advertising. Like many tech companies, WhatsApp is hesitant to release numbers, and hasn't stated its profits since mid-2014, when its revenue was $15 million on a $250 million loss.
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.
We shall wait and see.