What is WhatsApp?

WhatsApp is a free messaging and calling service, now owned by Facebook. This social platform differs from the others in that you don’t have a timeline, newsfeed or bio. You can assign a profile picture and a status once you sign up to the service. If the contacts stored in your mobile phone also have WhatsApp, you will be able to connect with them on WhatsApp and message them.

The origin of WhatsApp

Brian Acton and Jan Koum developed WhatsApp in 2009. Both men were former employees at Yahoo. (Both men also applied for jobs at Facebook but were refused). Originally, WhatsApp was only available on the App Store for iPhone users, with a Blackberry version following a couple of months later.

By 2014, another monumental social media platform become involved. For $19 billion, Facebook acquired WhatsApp.

Although initially free, the service was changed after a year to one that charged $0.99 a year to cover costs of sending verification texts to subscribers. WhatsApp admitted this had a negative knock-on effect on growth and rendered the service free of charge again in 2016.

Voice-calling was introduced in 2015 and just over a year later it was reported that 100 million voice calls per day were being made on WhatsApp.

In 2019, WhatsApp announced that its service would cease to run on older operating systems after a new update iOS 8 and lower or Android 4 and older from 1st February 2020.

How do I get a WhatsApp account?

  • Simply go on the AppStore or Google Play Store and download the app or visit WhatsApp for the desktop version.
  • Once downloaded, you are asked to agree to T&C and Privacy Policy.
  • After you have confirmed, you are asked to allow WhatsApp access to your contacts and photos, media and files.
  • From there, enter your phone number and the verification code once you have received it via text.
  • Click next and you are now signed up!

Any of your contacts that have WhatsApp installed are automatically shown to you. If a particular contact isn’t on the list, you can send an invitation to them to join.

To start a Whatsapp chat, click on the green speech bubble in the bottom right-hand corner, from which you will also get an option to start a group chat by adding any number of contacts. If you wish to send the same message to many but individually, tap the top right-hand corner and press ‘New broadcast’. Anyone who receives that message will not know it has also been sent to others.

You can add up to 8 people for a video call. For five or more people, select group call; for 4 or fewer, select video call and add in the extra participants. You can change from video call to audio and vice versa during the call.

The platform allows you to send audio messages, photos, videos and documents (up to 100MB each) and customise or mute notifications.

The good

WhatsApp is incredibly easy to use, there is no need to have a degree in technology in order to use it to its full potential, which is great for the non-techies.

There is no charge to use WhatsApp, but you do need an internet connection and it has to link to your mobile number. It can be used across multiple devices and supports sending GIFs and stickers alongside all the other forms of media.

To ensure you are protected whilst using WhatsApp, there is good security within the platform. The company has applied end to end encryption which means that no-one, WhatsApp included, can see or hear anything you send or receive to any contact. None of your sent and received data is stored on a server. There is also two-step verification which is a must to stop you becoming a victim of identity fraud.

It is possible to share your location, both current and if you are travelling.

It is AD-FREE- a huge bonus!

You can view when your message has been received and when it has been read. One grey tick means it has been sent. Two grey ticks let you know it has been delivered and when those ticks turn blue, the message has been read by the recipient(s). This notification can be disabled in settings.

If you aren’t comfortable with people knowing when you are on the app, this too can be disabled. You won’t be able to see when they were last online on the app and they cannot see when you were.

You can share Facebook posts from a mobile to a WhatsApp group or contact.

Notty tip - if you wish to send a photo at its full spec, send it using the docs option, that way it won’t be compressed.

The bad

The pros certainly outweigh the cons when it comes to WhatsApp.

You can delete a message you have sent, but that doesn’t mean someone hasn’t seen it before you did so. Due to Apple’s rules, if you sent a picture to an iPhone user, it may still be saved in the recipient’s camera roll. You aren’t told if it has or hasn’t been successful and you only have around an hour in which to delete it.

Without an internet connection, WhatsApp is fairly useless.

You cannot contact a friend if you don’t have their mobile number, unlike with other platforms.

WhatsApp is not available in every country (such as China, North Korea and Iran) but some bans within countries may be temporary. Even in countries that allow WhatsApp, not all of those allow video calling.

The future

With over 2 billion users, one billion of which use it daily, WhatsApp shows no sign of going anywhere just yet. As it stands in June 2020, WhatsApp is your, and our, favourite messaging app by a long shot. There were 96 million downloads in February 2020 alone! (stats from Oberlo)

The company has also confirmed that it has no plans to move away from end to end encryption either, much to the displeasure of governments that wish to have access to such info to surveil terrorists and child exploitation using the platform.

There are rumours that they will introduce ‘disappearing messages’- essentially messages that you can give a time frame to that will self-destruct when the time is up, eg., 5 minutes, 30 minutes or an hour etc.

There is also talk that you may be able to run WhatsApp across multiple devices in the future; currently, it is limited to a mobile phone with your phone number and sim card or a slightly more basic desktop version.

If WhatsApp is free, how does it make money?

Although the annual fee of $0.99 for using WhatsApp was waived for most countries in 2016, a few countries still have the minimal charge attached. Out of 2.5 billion users, a percentage of these will have been paid for. Even if only one per cent of these downloads pay, that’s $25 million!

Facebook has also launched WhatsApp Business API and will roll it out internationally. This allows businesses to reach out to customers and respond to queries automatically. In an attempt to prevent spam, businesses cannot send the first message. Major clients are booking.com and Wish.

WhatsApp will charge businesses for late replies after a ‘free’ 24-hour window has elapsed. These charges will vary from country to country.

India has tested a user-based payment service where customers can link UPI-enabled bank accounts and transfer money through the app.

In a move that will anger some users, WhatsApp has said they will place ads within the WhatsApp Status (Stories) during 2020. The original founders had vowed that WhatsApp would forever remain ad-free which was a major attraction to the masses. This turn of events will likely see some die-hard WhatsApp fans defer to another platform.

It looks like WhatsApp is here to stay and we’ll see many more improvements yet.