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Is Facebook on an app prowl@WhatsApp?

Social networking giant Facebook seems to be on the prowl again. After acquiring photo-sharing startup Instagram for $1 billion early this year, the company has now set its sights higher, if reports are to be believed. The company is planning to acquire popular instant messaging app WhatsApp, according to Techcrunch.

“The reported story is a rumour and not factually accurate. We have no further information to share at the moment,” according to an e-mail response from WhatApp to a Techccircle.in query on the development.

But why would Facebook want to buy WhatsApp in the first place? While Facebook relies heavily on ads (it has even got some negative response for the same), WhatsApp is an ad-free application.

In fact, the founders hate ads so much that they have also written about it in the company’s official blog, which reads, “No one wakes up excited to see more advertising, no one goes to sleep thinking about the ads they’ll see tomorrow. No one jumps up from a nap and runs to see an ad. Advertising isn’t just the disruption of aesthetics, the insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought. At every company that sells ads, a significant portion of their engineering team spends their day tuning data mining, writing better code to collect all your personal data, upgrading the servers that hold all the data and making sure it’s all being logged and collated and sliced and packaged and shipped out.”

Also, while Facebook is and has always been free, WhatsApp is a paid app. The app costs Rs 55 on the iTunes store. It is available for free on Android and the other platforms for the first year, users have to pay Rs 55 post that if they want to continue using the app.

So why is Facebook seeking to buy WhatApp? As of now, WhatsApp has users in over 100 countries and is available on the iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Symbian and BlackBerry platforms.

As per Google Play data, the app has been downloaded between 100-500 million times and has a four-and-a-half star rating. Even on the iTunes store, it is currently (and has been for a long while) the number one paid app. The company had also crossed a significant milestone last October, when over a billion messages were sent using the app in a single day (that is 11,574 messages a second).

And Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, Facebook has mentioned more than once that ‘mobile is crucial’ for the company. So we guess having a paid, ad-free service, especially one that has reached such a scale, along with a free ad-supported service will only work in the company’s favour.

WhatsApp Inc. was founded by Brian Acton and Jan Koum (both Yahoo veterans) in 2009. The company is backed by Sequoia Capital that had invested $8 million in the startup early last year.

(Edited by Prem Udayabhanu)

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