Many people have wondered how Whatsapp has become so immensely popular. Looking at the development and history of the messaging app, the following points are the main reasons for Whatsapp’s success:
There were other messaging apps before Whatsapp, but the Silicon Valley based service was the first with a reliable app: Not loosing messages, always assuring that push notifications arrive, an app that doesn’t often crash, etc. Its early competitors struggled with these challenges, while Whatsapp delivered a performant and stable service. With 15-20 billion messages being delivered per day, this is actually quite an achievement. In consequence the customer satisfaction has been high.
Having started with the iPhone, Whatsapp quickly launched its app on other platforms. Blackberry was second, and then quickly came Android, Nokia (with Symbian 60 and even 40), Windows Phone, etc. The platform reach gave Whatsapp a considerable advantage over its competitors, and the resulting network effects among its users helped to accelerate the growth.
Easily connecting users
Since Whatsapp accesses the user’s address book to automatically connect friends, the whole setup of the service has become very easy for users. Traditionally on other services, users had to manually find and connect friends (e.g. Skype, Facebook, Linkedin, etc.). Needless to say, many people don’t like that their address book is copied to the servers of a company. However, the benefits of the automatical synchronization and the resulting ease of use beat possible privacy concerns. Again the results have been strong network effects and growth.
Whatsapp made it really easy to send many messages in a row. To a certain degree Whatsapp even changed the messaging behavior of users a bit. Before users wrote several sentences and then sent one complete SMS message. Now they simply press “Send” for every sentence. For teens who send hundreds of messages per day, this has been perfect.
If Whatsapp is able to keep its lead, remains to be seen. Many competitors have catched up, and there are certain use cases where users demand advanced features, because the app is not good enough anymore. However, so far Whatsapp is a great success story with 430 million users.