WhatApp's entire selling point was its huge customer base, 450 million at the time of the announcement of its sale to Facebook, and its chance for future growth, which were roughly one million new customers every day. But now it's looking that might have some major competition to deal with very soon, especially in the form of Chinese messaging giant WeChat.
In its fourth quarter/full year results, which were released on Wednesday, WeChat's parent company, Tencent, revealed that the combined number of monthly average user for WeChat and Weixin (which is what WeChat is called in China) were 355 million.
That means that the app's MAUs increased by 6% quarter to quarter, and a very impressive 121% year to year.
So what do those numbers mean for WhatsApp? Honestly that depends on one thing: where that growth is coming from.
As you can see in the graphic below, WhatsApp is dominant in the majority of the big markets around the world, including Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa; and it is the second most used messaging app in the United States, behind Facebook Messenger.
The only major market where it does not have a presence is China, which is where WeChat reigns supreme.
Tencent did not say specifically in the report how much of WeChat/Weixin's growth came from its home country, and how much came from international users, but the company seemed to suggest that the majority of it was, in fact, in China.
"During the year, Weixin enjoyed rapid expansion and enhanced user engagement in China. With the launch of new services, such as Game Center, Official Accounts and Weixin Payment, as well as the increasing adoption of Moments, Weixin is evolving from a pure communications service into a multi-functional platform," the company said.
"In international markets, WeChat achieved robust aggregate user growth, but we are increasingly focused on driving engagement in specific target geographic regions."
If WeChat continues to grow in China, then it probably will not affect WhatsApp in any major way. If it goes to other regions around the world, which it almost certainly will, then WhatsApp could have a problem.
Tencent made clear that overseas expansion is definitely something that it has it's eye on.
"Looking ahead, we aim to further improve user engagement on Weixin and WeChat by enhancing the core communications and social functions. We will also leverage Official Accounts and Weixin Payment to explore O2O and mobile e-Commerce opportunities in China."
VatorNews has reached out to Tencent to get a breakdown of how much of WeChat's growth was foreign vs domestic, but the company was not available for comment at this time.
While WeChat is one of WhatsApp's biggest rivals, it could also serve as a model for future monetization
WeChat makes the majority of its money from games and stickers, but there is another interesting way that Tencent was able to make money off the app.
For the Chinese, November 11th is known as "Single's Day." It serves as almost an anti-Valentine's Day, in which bachelors get to, you know, celebrate being single. Tencent made over 500 million Yuan that day, or over $81 million, by allowing customers to view, and then order, products available on Tencent's 51buy website through WeChat’s menus.
As much as it is growing, WeChat still has less monthly active users than WhatsApp, so there could be a huge potential profit for Facebook if it could find a way to sell goods directly through the app in the same way.
(Image source: hi-tech.leonardo.it)