When the man of the house is caught up in a business meeting and texts at the eleventh hour that he will be late for dinner, you need to find something interesting to fill up that block of time. And what can be better than chatting with a friend? I called Sidd, more like a sister to me, all the way across in Vancouver. After I hung up on the phone, I was amusingly surprised that we could speak for such a long duration. Our conversations usually cover everything under the sun: ranging from economy and emotions, to weather and wardrobe, to films and family, and of course her adorable little tyke ZeeZee. This was another one of those banters.
Now if I would like to celebrate the moment Alexander Graham Bell was born, thank you wishes need to be on the way for WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jon Koum too! My lengthy international call was conducted courtesy their product of innovation. So I think it’s worth pondering on a few tidbits about this cross-platform instant messaging and Voice over IP service that has taken the world by storm. And especially when I belong to that club of over a billion users who lean on WhatsApp to either text or call.
Interestingly, both WhatsApp founders were rejects for jobs they had separately applied for at Facebook. Tinged with sadness, yet coated with an optimistic flavor, a tweet came in the summer of 2009 from Brian Acton: “Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s new adventure.” The duo’s odyssey of ingenuity did take them to the crest, and in a situation that can be appropriately described as an irony of fate, it was Facebook itself that bought WhatsApp in 2014 for a jaw-dropping $19.3 billion!
WhatsApp has secured its position as the most popular chat app in more than half of the world. SimilarWeb Ltd analyzed data from 187 countries to determine that 109 countries, comprising 58% of the world’s population, used the app extensively. It has become immensely popular and is almost spelling the death of cell phone-based SMS (short message service) particularly in the Asia Pacific region. WhatsApp is either free or is available at a very low cost and has been able to lure consumers by facilitating group chats and allowing videos, photos, and short voice messages to be exchanged among users. The traditional cell phone carriers, barring some exceptions in a handful of countries, have not been able to offer such cost-efficient SMS benefits.
From my personal experience, I have found WhatsApp very useful for maintaining long distance communication, more specifically with friends and family overseas. I have gotten in touch with long-lost friends, and it’s a joy to reunite and re-bond. You literally feel that the distance is bridged when you do a video chat and get to see what’s happening at the other end. The world seems to be a much smaller place.
My urge to suddenly go on this WhatsApp exploration journey was triggered by an intriguing piece of news covered by Wall Street Journal earlier this year. Google engineers in Silicon Valley were encumbered with the problem of why one out of three smartphones in India was freezing. One of the main reasons centered around the issue that WhatsApp users in India everyday send out Good Morning messages to friends, family and acquaintances. The overload of these images causes the glitch. They take up a big chunk of space and either slow down or freeze phones with low storage capacity.
The WhatsApp wave that has swept India is almost given the color of a pandemic in the WSJ article, highlighting how obsessed people are in sending out the morning messages. I have no data to prove the contrary, but it makes me wonder if India is the only country where people send out these messages at the crack of dawn. WhatsApp users in other countries see the morning sun too! Well, the fact that the nation has about 200 million active monthly users brings the issue into limelight. Welcoming 2018, India created a record when its netizens sent out 20 billion messages to exchange greetings on New Year’s eve.
Now, here come the techies as the rescuers to the jamming problem! The FilesGo app was unveiled by Google to help clear up space with a special feature to identify Good Morning messages and delete them. The app has so far had 10 million uploads and is expected to take care of the freezing issue.
Another news circulating in the air and opening the doors for discussion is about the older generation being bitten by the bug. While YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat happen to be the domains for the younger breed, older Indians have been using WhatsApp routinely. I have come across quite a few articles, painting this scenario in a rather negative light, about the older population spamming and getting addicted to the app. I would say being initiated into technology is a plus, not a minus. If these aged individuals are comfortable using a next-gen resource to keep in touch with loved ones, they need to be appreciated. Rather than getting flak, they need to be guided to use the app in the appropriate manner to enjoy the rewards.
Every invention has the potential to be either a bane or a blessing. If I were to give my two cents, I would say that the ball is in one’s own court. By using the app judiciously, you can maximize its benefits to the utmost without letting it be a nuisance to yourself and others. At the end of the day, no matter how irritated you may get scrolling through those never ending messages in your multiple chat groups, or how bored you may get with that individual who goes overboard by sending a daily dose of her wild party pictures, you cannot ignore the efficacy of WhatsApp. For at your service 24/7 is the app to reach out to anyone on your list of contacts with that cheery “whats’ up”!