Facebook to Buy or Challenge Whatsapp? Happy birthday SMS!

Facebook Buyout WhatsApp

It is only fitting that on the 20th anniversary of the worlds first text message, Facebook is pondering buying the popular Whatsapp service.

As of Monday afternoon All things D is reporting that it is a rumor for now, but when there is smoke there is usually a fire and that small fire might be the messaging setup for Facebook.

The Verge has some information about Facebook changing the messaging authentication requirement for the messenger client. They will offer it without the requirement of signing in, instead you can use your phone number and a name. This is essentially exactly what Whatsapp is doing on their platform. Is the SMS message starting to show its age already? Instead of Facebook buying Whatsapp they could be getting ready to rival them with this new ability.

“Merry Christmas” was the first message sent to a mobile phone by British engineer Neil Papworth in December of 1992. He was quoted last year saying, “I’d never have predicted that it would spread into the consumer world… at the time it didn’t seem like a big deal.” The simple SMS message has evolved into a daily communication method for millions of people around the globe.

Whatsapp, is an extremely popular multi platform mobile messaging app. Similar to iMessage or RIM’s BBM, it allows users to send messages to each other for free without a carrier text plan. A key difference is the users just have to have the app and they are able to send to any other user with the app. iMessage is only for Apple devices and the BBM service is only for Blackberry users.

The service is ad free and very reasonable at $.99 for iOS and the same $.99 a year after the first year free for Android. It is also available for BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone platforms making it scaleable across the globe.

As of October 2011, the network was handling around 100 million daily users and 1 billion messages per day. The past year the service has become even more popular, but Whatsapp has not put out any further usage statistics besides a tweet that was unofficial touting 10 billion per day.

The numbers are staggering for usage and it has translated into the number 2 paid app for Apple’s App Store. Combine that with the popularity of Facebook and it makes sense why the social network could be looking into the purchase. There was no indication of a timetable or a price per the Tech Crunch report. Mark  Zuckerberg has said the future for Facebook is mobile and with mobile comes a strong messaging and communication platform. The desktop web version of Facebook could have the default messaging service replaced with Whatsapp or their own new messaging to gain even more users. Apple has recently extended the iMessage service to their Mac products with success.

Part of the popularity has come from the ability to send messages to other users for free in any part of the world. Global text message rates are still extremely high and with 3 or 4 messages you are over the $.99 price of Whatsapp. SMS is still somewhat unreliable with messages getting lost or not delivered. Whatsapp has a message delivery notification system built in that shows users when the message was delivered to the intended device. It won’t show if a message has been read, but you can be sure it is waiting for the other party instead of wondering if it was lost in route.

Third party messaging services are not without their own issues. Whatsapp, Kik,  BBM and iMessage have all experienced catastrophic failures over the past year.  Service has been partly to completely down for all users on each of the platforms during various outages. Whatsapp has a dedicated twitter handle that gives out regular status updates. As of this morning that account has over 585,000 followers.

Facebook in talks to buy messaging app Whatsapp

Facebook in talks to buy messaging app Whatsapp.

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