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What Is WhatsApp?

February 20, 2014, 6:07 PM by Sammi Bjelland

What Is WhatsApp?

Facebook is paying $19 billion for an application called WhatsApp.

Many people were surprised by the high price.  But WhatsApp is one of the most popular social media applications on the market, with over 450 million users worldwide.  But what exactly is it?

"WhatsApp is an alternative messaging app that lets you send text and photos and video and audio. The same sorts of things you could do over your normal SMS plan, but it doesn't use any of that texting," Chris Prendergast with Click Rain said. 

WhatsApp is known for its draw to a younger audience. Prendergast says this could be a key reason for why Facebook forked over $19 billion.

"The news has been about how Facebook is losing ground amongst teens. They don't want to be where their parents are. Well, WhatsApp is where they're going instead. And now Facebook owns that too," Prendergast said. 

WhatsApp is also more internationally used.

According to Reuters, WhatsApp is much more popular than Facebook Messenger in Europe, Africa and Latin America.

"Well, in other countries there's some limitations with texting plans and so WhatsApp and other alternative messaging apps let you get around that," Prendergast said. 

The app is free for the first year, then jumps to just $1 a year.  That makes it much cheaper than many cell phone company texting plans.

"Between WhatsApp, Snap Chat and Skype, you can do so much on your phone now without using any of the phone plan, outside of the data," Prendergast said.

This could mean some trouble for traditional cell phone providers.

"I'm sure the phone companies are keeping an eye on it and getting a little bit worried now that Facebook is in the game too," Prendergast said.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg has said he plans to keep WhatsApp a separate application and ad-free.

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