On Wednesday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed his company’s surprising acquisition of WhatsApp in a deal worth $16 billion in cash and stock.
“I’m excited to announce that we’ve agreed to acquire WhatsApp and that their entire team will be joining us at Facebook,” Zuckerberg stated Wednesday. “Our mission is to make the world more open and connected. We do this by building services that help people share any type of content with any group of people they want. WhatsApp will help us do this by continuing to develop a service that people around the world love to use every day.”
Although Zuckerberg says WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook, the widespread impact of the coupling could be significant.
“With 450 million monthly users and a million more signing up each day,” says Josh Constine of TechCrunch, “WhatsApp was just too far ahead in the international mobile messaging race for Facebook to catch up… Facebook either had to surrender the linchpin to mobile social networking abroad, or pony up and acquire WhatsApp before it got any bigger. It chose the latter.”
Zuckerberg said last night that the product roadmap “will remain unchanged” and the team is going to stay in Mountain View, California. For now, Zuckerberg isn’t saying what the fusion of the two companies could mean for mobile marketing, but the impact could be significant… down the road.
And it’s all so ironic, observers say, that such an anti-advertising company likes WhatsApp has now been acquired by one of the biggest mobile advertising players in the world.
“This is more of a communication infrastructure play than a media or user play,” asserts Gary Vaynerchuk of digital agency VaynerMedia. Vaynerchuk tells MediaPost that for agencies, the acquisition means “very little for now because Facebook is too smart to let brands jump into this world… They are [going to] allow it to stand alone and thrive for the next year or two at least … after that, it becomes more of a conversation.”
Others say don’t anyone fool you into thinking that this mobile marketing and advertising potential won’t ultimately be explored to the fullest by Facebook.
“Over the next few years, we’re going to work hard to help WhatsApp grow and connect the whole world,” Zuckerberg admits, stopping short of saying what many digital media experts see as an inevitable eventual leveraging of WhatsApp for marketing purposes.