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What’s up with WhatsApp? With more than 1 billion users across the globe, the app is by far the world’s most popular messaging tool.

WhatsApp allows users to send text messages, have group conversations, and place in-app calls without directly using a wireless carrier. It’s particularly popular as a tool for people to communicate internationally.

Marcelo Calbucci
Marcelo Calbucci

Five years after launching, WhatsApp sold to Facebook for $19 billion, in the biggest acquisition of a VC-backed startup to date. With a sticker price like that, you might expect WhatsApp to be a cash cow but it actually isn’t a significant source of revenue for Facebook. The app is free and doesn’t host any ads. Still, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that WhatsApp is actually worth even more than Facebook paid for it.

We’re joined on the show by Seattle entrepreneur Marcelo Calbucci, who uses WhatsApp to communicate with friends and family in Brazil, where WhatsApp has been a subject of controversy. GeekWire’s Cara Kuhlman also shares her perspective as a WhatsApp user, and we hear from our panel of millennials, as well.

Listen below to this week’s episode of Generation App, for tips on getting the most out of WhatsApp, the secrets behind its popularity, and why Facebook thinks it’s so powerful.


Key takeaways

  • WhatsApp is in the vanguard of the global encryption battle.
  • Adoption of the app depends heavily on peer use.
  • WhatsApp isn’t so different from traditional SMS but the fact that it can be used without a wireless carrier is disrupting telecommunications.
  • Chatbots and business to consumer communications may be the secret for monetizing WhatsApp.
  • With two powerful messaging tools, Facebook has a big head start in the messenger-as-a-platform space.
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