The popular mobile messaging application WhatsApp is back up after having gone down for three hours on Saturday. The ad-free service had been purchased earlier in the week by Facebook for approximately $19 billion. When the outage was over, the firm sent out a tweet to its one million-plus followers apologizing for the so-called server issues, Reuters reported on Saturday evening.
The internationally popular application claims to have more 450 million users worldwide. The company is five years old but has acquired a following by the highly sought teen market as well as World Wide Web users who avoid mainstream social networks like Facebook.
When news of the sale being closed was announced, TechCrunch released details of WhatsApp’s initial rounds of funding from as far back as 2009. The first round that year was said to have been around $250,000, a second round was for $8 million in 2011 and a third of $52 million funding took place in July, 2013. Even those exponential rises in valuation did not prepare people for the news of the exponentially priced bid that Facebook placed on the table, which TechCrunch stated was the biggest-ever purchase of a company backed by venture capitalists.
According to Reuters, a conspiracy theory arose after the app was reported going down that Facebook had purchased WhatsApp for the intention of shutting it down, but neither Facebook nor its new acquisition has responded to those rumors since the app came back up.
However, not everyone is please with the sale.
Robert Reich, in an essay on Salon, talks about the start-up’s selling price being the largest ever in history. The sale price, he argues, offers next to nothing to the economy despite the amount of money in cash, Facebook shares and WhatsApp stock that changed hands. With only 55 employees including the two founders, the company does not produce anything or require a large system of logistical personnel to manufacture and distribute goods.
Owing to its widespread use from offering its first year for free and thereafter for a fee, WhatsApp, like Facebook, has acquired a huge amount of customer data. While the fee is small, it adds up when one has hundreds of millions of people paying it. According to figures released by the firm, it is adding more than a million users daily. All 55 of its employees are now millionaires and there appears to be little chance of adding any more staff because they appear to be able to handle the 450 million-plus WhatsApp users.
On the other hand, he continues, the middle class and blue-collar workers that built America’s economy through the 20th century continue to be victimized by so much money being handed over to so few people with so much power via the Web.
However he seems to not consider the alternatives that are already popping up in the wake of the sale. Threema, a similar application out of Switzerland, is said to have doubled its user base within 24 hours of the WhatsApp sale. According to a story in TechCrunch, Threema’s encryption chain is end-to-end. WhatsApp, on the other hand, has had security problems in the past.
Regardless of any protests, WhatsApp appears to remain back up and the only reason it may be going down again, according to some reports, is because so many new users are attempting to sign up and log in after the record-breaking sale.
By Randall Fleming
Follow Randall Fleming on Twitter: #BreweryObserver