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There have been tons of mobile instant messaging services over the years, but few have had the kind impact WhatsApp’s managed to gain since it was founded in 2009.
In fact, the service may now have more users than Twitter. At least, that’s according to WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum who was speaking at AllThingsD’s Dive Into Media conference. While he wouldn’t be drawn into exact user numbers, he did say that it was north of the 200-million mark.
He did however note that the service was seeing eight-billion inbound messages and 12-billion outbound messages per day, adding that the fact it has fewer than 50 engineers means that it has the highest ratio of active users per long-term employee today of any active tech company.
Koum also claims that the service hasn’t seen a drop off since it decided to start charging US$0.99 a year, meaning that it looks set to have a long and loyal following for some time to come.
That said, any further expansion won’t come without resistance. Chinese social giant Tencent’s instant messaging effort WeChat reportedly has over 300-million users, around 40-million of whom live outside China. The bulk of those outside China come from other emerging markets, a key growth area for WhatsApp, especially given the key role mobile plays in many emerging market countries.
WeChat also has dedicated offices across the world, including Indonesia (a joint venture with MNC), the US and Thailand (via Sanook) to grow its user-base. Last year, Tencent generated US$7-billion in revenue with an operating profit of US$2.46-billion.
A major boon for WeChat in these markets has been the fact that it’s managed to successfully integrate social elements into its offering.
If WhatsApp is to continue thriving, it can’t afford to rest on what it’s doing well now. Instead, it will have to keep innovating and thinking about what it can do well in the future.