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WhatsApp reaches the billion-user milestone

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Mobile messaging app WhatsApp on Tuesday announced that it has crossed the billion user milestone globally, with an addition of 100 million users in the last five months.

“As of today, one billion people are using WhatsApp. That’s nearly one in seven people on earth who use WhatsApp each month to stay in touch with their loved ones, friends, and family… we’re honored to be a small part of what people are doing to make their lives and the lives of those around them better,” stated WhatsApp in a statement sharing the excitement over having made it this big.

The milestone has been reached in just seven years that the app was launched and in just two years since it was acquired by Facebook in a deal worth $19 billion. However, with one billion among its registered users, the company has stated their real challenge will be to reach out to the next six billion. And the main deterrent here could be the lack of enough internet coverage the world over. This is where Facebook’s Internet.org endeavour comes in.

The social networking company had been vigorously pursuing its Internet.org program which aims to bring more users under the ambit of internet services by making available basic internet facilities to the poor and downtrodden free of cost. This also includes several sites and services to be available to the poor. Advocates of net neutrality though consider those to be insecure given that Internet.org is not yet compliant with https encryption methods. Also, they claim discriminating between the poor and others is completely against the ethos of net neutrality.

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg defended his move claiming he is aiming to strike a balance between universal connectivity and net neutrality which he said should and must coexist.

“To give more people access to the internet, it is useful to offer some service for free. If someone can’t afford to pay for connectivity, it is always better to have some access than none at all,” said Zuckerberg to those who are critical of his Internet.org venture.

WhatsApp competes with messaging apps like LINE, Viber and Hike in India. The company recently announced that it had stopped charging the $1 per year subscription fee and is now completely free for its users across the world. It also said it would not introduce any third-party ads for monetisation and is going to experiment with new models to stay ad-free.

On his part, Zuckerberg said there are only a few services that connect more than a billion people and this milestone is an important step towards connecting the entire world.

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