WhatsApp’s focus on UX

Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp turned more than a few heads last week. To help explain why Facebook thought the startup was worth $19,000,000,000, Jim Goetz of Sequoia Capital wrote Four Numbers That Explain Why Facebook Acquired WhatsApp.

It’s well worth a read, and the growth numbers are just astounding:

450. WhatsApp has more than 450 million active users, and reached that number faster than any other company in history. It was just nine months ago that WhatsApp announced 200 million active users, which was already more than Twitter. Every day, more than a million people install the app and start chatting, and they remain more engaged with WhatsApp than on any other service. Incredibly, the number of daily active users of WhatsApp (compared to those who log in every month) has climbed to 72%. In contrast the industry standard is between 10% and 20%, and only a handful of companies top 50%.

WhatsApp has about 330 million people use the app every day. (with 1 million added every day). There are a lot of interesting sub-stories to this amazing growth, but just think about how important product design is here. The uptime to keep the service running under such incredible load, the onboarding process that helps 1 million people start using it per day, and the simplicity inherent in a platform that gets such return use.

Couple those numbers with the focus on providing a great user experience evident in the now famous blog post by founder Jan Koum: Why we don’t sell ads:

“When we sat down to start our own thing together three years ago we wanted to make something that wasn’t just another ad clearinghouse. We wanted to spend our time building a service people wanted to use because it worked and saved them money and made their lives better in a small way. We knew that we could charge people directly if we could do all those things. We knew we could do what most people aim to do every day: avoid ads.

“At WhatsApp, our engineers spend all their time fixing bugs, adding new features and ironing out all the little intricacies in our task of bringing rich, affordable, reliable messaging to every phone in the world. That’s our product and that’s our passion. Your data isn’t even in the picture. We are simply not interested in any of it.”

That’s my favorite part of the WhatsApp story…they built their amazing product by focusing on users instead of on advertisers. I wonder if that philosophy will rub off on any other big players in the social space.

Published: February 24th, 2014