By Sarah Goodman
Rabat – Although WhatsApp is based in the United States, most of its billion-plus users live outside the northwestern hemisphere.
The majority of instant messaging subscribers live across South America, Asia, and Africa. Indeed, according to the Wall Street Journal, WhatsApp has over 200 million active monthly users in India, and 1.3 billion users worldwide.
Bought by Facebook in 2014 for USD 19 billion, WhatsApp includes many of the standard features of Facebook’s Messenger application and other social media platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram.
However, WhatsApp’s strategy diverges from the pack: its low-data consuming communication allows its users to send messages and use less data than its competitors do. Additionally, it includes the “group chat” function, enabling users to integrate multiple themed conversations into a low-bandwidth framework. And for those concerned about privacy, WhatsApp advertises “end to end” encryption, promising its users absolute privacy – even from WhatsApp itself.
“I used WhatsApp to plan my entire wedding,” says Asmae, 32, a Casablanca-native living in France at the time. She used the application to coordinate with family members, caterers, and musicians – all from her apartment in Grenoble. For her, WhatsApp meant more than simply social media: she used it as a business and administrative tool.
WhatsApp has outflanked its competitors in the emerging markets, especially across the consentient of Africa. In Zimbabwe, for example, WhatsApp accounted for nearly half of the country’s internet traffic. According to Quartz, 44% of all mobile internet usage went to WhatsApp.
WhatsApp’s success has caused tensions with various mobile companies, that believe the internet sensation is cutting into their revenue.
Several governments have intervened as well to try to curb their nation’s use of the data-based communications. In Morocco, for example, the government tried to impose an unpopular ban in 2016, also limiting the use of Skype as well. The government’s move inspired widespread protest, as users of the applications complained that the government was trying to protect the profits over mobile companies over the pockets of its citizens.
However, WhatsApp is not to be written off and has, in fact, started to evolve to meet the demands of the vast majority of its users.
In January 2018, WhatsApp launched a new android-only business application. So far, it has been rolled out in the United States, the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa.
“Our new app will make it easier for companies to connect with customers, and more convenient for our 1.3 billion users to chat with businesses that matter to them,” WhatsApp says.
Within its first two weeks of release, over 500,000 users installed the new business-oriented app.