Video calling apps have existed for at least a decade. Skype offered free video calls way back in 2006, Apple launched FaceTime in 2010, Facebook Messenger got video calling last year and Google has been dabbling with the feature in multiple avatars for a while, and now has Duo.
Yet, WhatsApp’s entry is a bigger deal, especially in emerging markets.
The biggest thing going for WhatsApp is its sheer user base — over 1 billion monthly active users worldwide. To put the numbers into perspective, Skype has about 300 million monthly active users globally while WhatsApp has 160 million in India alone.
WhatsApp was built at a time when carriers used to charge for every message you sent. With WhatsApp, you could send unlimited messages for free (if you were in a Wi-Fi hotspot) or for a fraction of the cost of a regular text message. WhatsApp first democratized text and multimedia messaging, then voice calls and it is now poised to do the same with video calls.
Thanks to its roots in emerging markets (it came into the spotlight in the U.S. only when Facebook acquired it), WhatsApp was built to be ubiquitous and it has successfully managed to become the world’s largest messaging and communications platform. It works well on the cheapest smartphones and the slowest networks. It was built for a mobile-only world and that is a big advantage.
The beauty of WhatsApp is that you do not need to have a social graph in order to use it, unlike Facebook Messenger or Google Hangouts. Your phone number and the contacts in your phone book are your social graph. You do not need to have an email account to sign up unlike Skype and Hangouts and you are not locked on one particular ecosystem like Apple’s FaceTime. .. see more