One of WhatsApp’s cofounders effusively praised Android this past weekend, calling it “a lot more open. We are able to build new features and prototype faster… not to mention that we have a lot more users on Android [than iOS].”
WhatsApp co-founder and CEO, Jan Koum, was speaking at the DLD conference in Munich, talking up his company’s relentless focus of “no ads, no games, no gimmicks.” What amounts to one of the longest-running lean startup mentalities in the business, the company now boasts 430 million users across several platforms despite employing only 50 people, half of whom deal with localization and translation. That number is up 30 million from mid-December.
While WhatsApp has reportedly received purchase offers by the likes of Facebook and Google for around $4 billion, it appears that the company, borne of former Yahoo employees, is here to stay, and stay independent.
Though many companies have desired to stay independent until a perfect offer came around — Nest, which sold to Google for $3.2 billion last week was one example — WhatsApp could be the exception to the rule. With sustained revenue based on an annual subscription of $0.99/year per user, and extremely low overhead, the impetus to stay independent and ad-free is real.
WhatsApp has also weathered many security and privacy issues, both of its own making and indirectly, through competitors like Snapchat and Kik. WhatsApp was once accused of transferring messages and passwords without encryption, something it quickly rectified; more recently, Snapchat was accused of not doing enough to ensure its own user base’s security, which lead to millions of names and phone numbers being posted to an online database.
WhatsApp also recently overhauled its iOS and Android apps, and fixed some lingering problems on Windows Phone 8. It’s available for BlackBerry 10, too, one of the few big-name messaging services to make the effort, and looks to be adding new users at a steady clip. While the breakdown between platforms has not been stated, it’s reasonable to think that Android users, who never had to pay upfront for the app unlike their iOS counterparts, outnumber Apple users by almost 2:1.