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23.07.2014
Paying $16 billion to raise the profile of a mobile messaging app seems a little extreme, even for Facebook. Facebook, of course, would argue that the answers are yes, no, and yesa€”and it has over 16 billion reasons for doing so. Facebook executives waved away the overlap between Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp by arguing that the two serve two different modes of communication: real-time chat and offline communication. And finally, therea€™s the question that each Facebook user will have to ask himself: Should Facebook be able to see each and every message? So far, WhatsApp has survived by charging users $1 per year after the first yeara€™s service.
Simply put, ita€™s hard to argue that the Facebook-WhatsApp combination will benefit consumers more than either company, standing alone. As PCWorld's senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. PCWorld helps you navigate the PC ecosystem to find the products you want and the advice you need to get the job done.


But the Facebook-WhatsApp dealA raises the questiona€”againa€”of whether mobile messaging will finally replace the venerable SMS text message for U.S. But it offers free unlimited texts as part of its basic prepaid and postpaid plans, making SMS a boilerplate part of a standard contract. Sending a text from the United States to the MTN network in South Africa, for example, costs 1.60 rand, or about 15 cents per text.
WeChat, which has grown to 270 million users in China, has used the foundation of mobile messaging app to grow into a social network. In my experience, thata€™s because Facebook Messenger isna€™t seen to be as reliable as SMS or, presumably, WhatsApp. In August, Facebook added push-to-talk functionality, taking it one step away from true voice communication. But facilitating Facebooka€™s overseas expansion and consolidating its presence on the phone benefits Facebook, immensely. And until the deal goes through, I would argue that no, SMS stands no chance of going awaya€”testing is simply too ubiquitous, and essentially totally free in modern carrier plans.


WhatsApp allows free unlimited texts, anywhere, without advertising (although WhatsApp costs $1 per year after the first year of service). And if Facebook advertises WhatsApp as a way to circumvent SMS, it stands a decent chance of shifting its base of smartphone users onto the new messaging app.
Chances are your phonea€™s contacts are also your Facebook friends, pushing you to make Facebook or WhatsApp the hub of your mobile existence. Until it does, Facebooka€”and, to be fair, rivals like Googlea€”will continue boiling the frog, slowly impeding your privacy step by step.
With WhatsApp, Facebook can take the opposite approach: Instead of preventing you from leaving Home, or Facebook, the company can merely make it more attractive to simply remain within Facebooka€™s comfy environs.



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