Whatsapp has been bought by Facebook for $19 billion. The four year old messaging service has grown its 450m active users at an incredible rate, along with a multitude of other achievements such as 72% of users using the service daily, and a lean team of 32 engineers managing a system that processes the equivalent daily global SMS volume. Whilst the value raises eyebrows, we should remember that although the technology has made the infrastructure invisible, and good interaction design has made the experience appear easy – beneath the surface is a massive technical/strategic achievement.
Rumours & information (mostly rumours) about the acquisition and valuation have started to emerge – with Zuckerberg making an offer of $250m investment (valuing the company at $8bn) kicking off a bidding war with Google (who had paid Whatsapp millions to be notified if Facebook came knocking). It’s a huge success for investors Sequoia Capital (who invested a total of $80m for around 20% of the company), who can add Whatsapp to their impressive hall of fame.
Every man and his blog have been commenting on why the deal has been made – with the most salient reasons being; acquisition of users, covering their flanks, and improving advertising algorithms by gaining much more information about their users. Whilst the founders have categorically stated that advertising will not be introduced to the product, there’s a chance that conversations on Whatsapp could influence the advertising you see on Facebook, in the same way Gmail targets ads.
These potential privacy implications have caused some users to move platforms in protest – with an obscure (but secure) Russian messaging app, Telegram, becoming a Top 5 app in 64 countries. Swisscom iO has also also seen a huge increase in downloads, moving to the top of the Swiss app store. A slightly embarrassing server outage that hit Whatsapp a few days after the acquisition further prompted users to jump ship.
With the announcement of Facebook Zero, a collaboration to provide free facebook access in developing countries, and Whatsapp voice calls, it’ll be interesting to see how integrated these services become.
Mobile World Congress has been taking place in Barcelona this week, and as a result there’s been more launches than there are contacts in your phone. The biggest launch has been the Samsung Galaxy S5 (which received some pretty poor mocking from Nokia and HTC). Other notable launches include a trio of Android platform devices from Nokia, a super secure smartphone named Black Phone created to protect your privacy, and the Xperia Z2 from Sony, which has been designed with video in mind, as it boasts a bigger screen and ability to capture recorded video at 4K UHD resolution.
Mark Zuckerberg was also at MWC, where he spoke of the Internet.org initiative, which aims to give people in less connected parts of the world access to health, finance and education services through their phones. He argued that encouraging less connected countries to adopt technology would put pressure on data carriers to deliver. This would ultimately creative higher revenue for them, as well as higher levels of connectivity for those who may need it.
Read it and weep
In an effort to make our efficiency more like that of Bradley Cooper in Limitless, this software caught our eye (and at double the speed as usual). The creators of a new app, Spritz, are claiming this software could potentially reinvent the way we read, and if moving your eyeballs has been too much work for you in the past, you may agree with them.
Spritz uses the knowledge that the human brain reads a word through focusing on one central point, and uses that to process the whole word. It then shows words individually and aligned to the centre of the screen on your device, delivering each word to you in the fastest and most comprehendible way possible. Basically… have a look at this gif to understand how it works. The result of this technique is the ability to process 500 words per minute, which is over double of the average reading speed, which is 120-180 words. That’s a lot of ridiculous Daily Mail articles in a short amount of time.
You may have missed
A nice collection of stock photo archives that don’t suck
A series of interesting interviews from seasoned UX designers
The ‘outernet’, a global network of tiny satellites, could bring internet to the globe
Tron designer creates hyper bike for Lotus (link thanks to Sarah)
Great, funny, and most importantly of all, watchable Virgin Atlantic safety film (Link thanks to Rhoda)
Apple and Tesla had a spring fling (link thanks to Sarah)
A village designed just for people with dementia (link thanks to @wightruby)
This new girl-powered engineering toy asks kids to design and wire their own dollhouse
How will the Oculus Rift change game design?
Trailer for new HBO show Silicon Valley
Oh, and this one too