An average Indian spends more than 3 hours on his/her smartphone, with most of it being on social media and messaging.
It comes as no surprise that so many people prefer to be texted, than get on a call. The convenience of replying at will with visual aids is apparently a lot more enticing than listening to another person’s voice. Instant messaging has become the preferred mode of communication for many.
WhatsApp, which was launched 10 years ago, was launched as a simple person-to-person messaging platform, but over the years, we saw them introduce numerous updates that made WhatsApp, the world’s most used texting app. Here are the most notable ones, to start of with:
2009: Photo and video sharing
2010: Location sharing
2011: Group chats
2013: Voice messages
2014: Read receipts
2015: WhatsApp Web
2016: End-to-End encryption, Desktop app, VIdeo calling
2017: Status stories
2018: Group calling, stickers
Up until Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2015, they were just playing catch-up with the other messaging apps. But after they joined hands, things started evolving rapidly. The speed at which new features started rolling out accelerated, and it truly became more than just a messaging platform.
Features like group calling took a dig at the dated method of adding friends to a conference call. Live location sharing made communicating with friends a lot simpler, and also added a new layer of safety. WhatsApp Payments was genius, not only did it get rid of the unnecessary procedure of transferring money but also, eliminated the need to check back if the person received the amount. Status Stories emulated Snapchat’s marquee feature and made it mainstream.
Honestly, it’s impossible to imagine life without WhatsApp. It’s been a true disruptor that overtook its rival by providing a much better, simpler and easier experience, without succumbing to the pressure of ads. That could change in the near future.
Back home in India, WhatsApp changed the way we communicate. With almost 300 million users, it has penetrated rural India in a way, very few other apps have. There are people who buy smartphones just to be able to access WhatsApp and stay connected to their close ones.
My grandmother got a new phone just so that she could know what’s happening in the family group, and occasionally, have video calls with friends. The FOMO that WhatsApp created for the non-users was instrumental in propagating them forward.
Remember, back in the day, when we all wanted a BlackBerry to stay in touch with our friends on BBM? That same feeling continues today with WhatsApp, where even when you have better alternatives available in the market, you just cannot not use WhatsApp.
They have had their own share of troubles too, especially around the spread of incorrect information that snowballed into bigger issues in the country. Amidst the security and political issues of India, the unmonitored nature of WhatsApp has posed as a threat by creating confusion between what’s right and what’s propaganda. The government is trying to set measures in place, but that’s easier said than done.
Well, I am sure they too are thinking about how to continue growing and get more users on board while keeping the authorities satisfied. It is expected that WhatsApp will also figure out newer ways to monetise the billions of users it has accumulated over the last decade, without compromising on the next billion.