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WhatsApp reaches 900M active users: how it got here

WhatsApp has been growing by 100 million users every four months since 2013

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
September 4, 2015
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/3ff5

When Facebook announced that it was buying messenger app WhatsApp for what turned out to be $19 billion, Mark Zuckerberg was already talking about the company potentially reaching one billion users.

At the time WhatsApp had roughly 450 users, so more than doubling that number seemed like something that could possibly happen. After all the app was growing very fast, but perhaps not for a while. I mean, a billion users? That's an insane number that very few companies even get close to.

Yet, here we are, only a year a half later and not only does that number not only seems atainable, but actually imminent because, on Thursday, WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum revealed that the app has now hit 900 million monthly active users. 

That was, of course, followed by congratulations by Zuckerberg.

This is a pretty big milestone for the company, so let's take a look back at how it got here, to see how quickly growth is speeding up for the company.

WhatsApp was founded in February of 2009 by former Yahoo employees Koum and Brian Acton. Originally a free, WhatsApp switched to a paid service to avoid growing too fast. In December 2009 WhatsApp's iPhone app was updated to send photos. By early 2011 WhatsApp was in the top 20 of all apps in the U.S. App Store.

There doesn't seem to be much indication as to how long it took the company to reach 100 million users, probably because nobody was paying attention at the time, so let's skip to 200 million, which WhatsApp reached in April of 2013, over four years after it was first released.

And then it exploded, reaching 300 million by August of 2013. Let's compare: four years for the first 200 million, then only six months for the next 100 million. At that point it was seeing 11 billion messages being sent and 20 billion being received every day.

So what happened in between those two numbers? WhatsApp raised money, taking $50 million from Sequoia Capital in July 2013, who had already put $8 million into the company two years earlier. 

At the same time that the company announced that number it also revealed that it was rolling out voice messaging, rather than simply letting users share audio clips with each other, as well as texts and messages.

And then growth sped up even faster as 400 million came in December of that year, a mere four months later. 

The Facebook acquisition came in February of 2014, and, as I said above, WhatsApp had 450 million users, with more than one million new people  signing up every day. It look less than two months after that to reach 500 million in April, again with four months in between milestones. The app was seeing 700 million photos and 100 million videos every single day

Four months later, like clockwork, came 600 million in August 2014, making it the world's most widely used messaging app. It took five months for it to get to 700 million in January of 2015, giving it 300 million users in just over year. It took only another three months after that for the app to reach 800 million.

And so, now here we are, five months later, with 900 million monthly active users. 

The question now isn't whether WhatsApp will reach one billion users around the world, but if it will be able to do it before the year is over. Frankly, given the almost clock-like precision of WhatsApp's growth, it could actually pull it off.

What's even more impressive is that, in another couple of years, if it keeps growing at this rate, WhatsApp might even be able to surpass Facebook's 1.49 billion monthly active users. 

Shout out to VentureBeat for catching this.

(Image source: businessinsider.com)


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