In an attempt to bolster its mobile messaging package, Google is planning to buy WhatsApp. Word is that Google will offer around $1 billion (roughly £650 million) for WhatsApp. The team behind the messaging app, however, are said to be holding out for more cash. Negotiations about a sale are said to be five weeks old.
WhatsApp has become a huge success since its inception in 2009 and is now the number one paid app in over 100 countries. Allowing users to send messages for free across continents has seen it become every bit as successful as BlackBerry’s similar BBM platform.
With gossip about a new, unified Google messaging service, called Babble, doing the rounds, this acquisition makes perfect sense. Google wants to bring together its Google Talk, Voice and Hangouts together under one name. Currently, though, it lacks a mobile messaging service to rival the likes of Apple’s iMessage and the aforementioned BBM.
There are rumors that Google Babble will combine Google’s disparate communication services under one roof, but the platform still needs to do something to innovate in this space; mobile messaging has been taken over by smaller apps and Facebook has made a major push as well. Google hasn’t given an answer to this competition. Even Google Product Manager Nikhyl Singhal confessed to GigaOM in June of last year that “We have done an incredibly poor job of servicing our users here.” Messaging is a huge, gaping hole in Google’s mobile strategy.
Communication services are the pillar to any connected device; knowing this, if Google wants to be taken seriously on mobile, it’ll need a standout like WhatsApp to take under its wing, and it needs to work fast.
By all regards, the acquisition is a no-brainer. Apps like LINE, WeChat, Nimbuzz, Tango, KakaoTalk, and of course WhatsApp, are making a splash on mobile (and as social apps) in record time. LINE has gone from zero to 130 million users in just under two years. Even new entrant MessageMe has rocketed from zero to one million users in just 12 days.
Google can’t afford the time to rebrand and rebuild a competitive messaging app at the risk of entering the game too late – or, it needs to be able to work off the platform WhatsApp has already established and use this technology (and sensically, the user base) to fill out the purported Babble.