Since VoIP became popular for general consumers in the early 2000s, the VoIP industry has grown ever since, to an estimated 158 million users by the middle of 2013.
New digital tools, apps and environments are continually developing, but our need to communicate with each other has driven some of the most popular and long lasting technology changes in modern times. From the original telephone, to the pager of the 80s, email in the 90s and the first smartphones, we have always developed new ways to communicate.
And the speed of this development and change is incredible. More recently in 2013, WhatsApp grew from 200 to 300 million active users in just four months. With this rapid growth and change comes acquisition from names like Google and Facebook and huge prices paid for user bases. I predicted back in 2013 that within the year, Facebook or Google would buy an OTT player like WhatsApp because:
Internet companies are interested in these OTT players not because of their technology or their business models but because of the way they’ve been able to attract incredible volumes of mobile users in relatively short periods of time.
And I was right. In 2012/13, Facebook bought WhatsApp for $19 billion. In today’s economy, some of the largest names and valuations are coming from communication apps and platforms. Snapchat, even as a newcomer, rejected an offer by Facebook for a reported $3 million in late 2013, an incredible offering for a company just 3 years old and Viber was snapped up earlier this year by Japanese firm Rakuten for $900 million.
So what is next? Asia seems to be the next big scene with WeChat and KakoTalk growing in number (438 million and 150 million respectively).
WeChat will continue to grow and with its 35% global reach, acquisition offers will already be underway for 2015.
We cannot under estimate the sheer scale and growth of the Asian app communications market, and apps like Line and KakaoTalk will be the ones to watch. It will be interesting to see how they developer further in the next 4/8/12 months.
Finally, many people will be watching WhatsApp to see how Facebook makes the most of its $19 billion acquisition.
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