Remote communication has been one of the main objectives to innovate in recent years. As technology has advanced, specifically Smartphones, the need has arisen to create mobile applications that will facilitate people with any activity.
One of the most popular and successful applications is WhatsApp. It is a free mobile phone application for sending and receiving messages, calls, and multimedia content between users.
This messaging system works when the user places their phone number as identification. In this way, he or she will only have to give their phone number to another user to register and chat.
It should be noted that this application works only if both users have the app installed on their smartphones, either on the Android or iOS operating systems. However, in recent years, options have emerged to be able to use this messaging platform through the web from a Windows or Mac PC. That way, anyone could have the opportunity to chat with someone else.
From the beginning, the company was characterized for developing this app without the inclusion of advertisements or games, and still, they have been able to generate millions of dollars.
Jan Koum and Brian Acton
Jan Koum was born in a small town on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine. Problems related to economic and political situations forced Koum and his mother to move to Mountain View.
Over time, Jan learned about computer networks through manuals he read at a used book bookstore. Subsequently, he joined the famous group of hackers called w00w00.
Koum enrolled at San José State University and got his first tech job at Ernst & Young, where he met Brian Acton, a Yahoo employee at the time. Six months later, Jan got a job at Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer.
After seven years of working together at Yahoo, they decided to leave that job and took a sabbatical. Subsequently, they tried to apply to work on Facebook, but it did not turn out as they expected.
One day, in 2009, Koum bought an iPhone, and when he saw the App Store, he realized that it had a lot of potentials to generate a new and expandable mobile application industry. Jan told his friend Acton about his idea, and they both decided to talk to Alex Fishman about it.
Fishman loved the idea and decided to help as he knew a Russian developer named Igum Solomennikov, who could bring his technical expertise to Koum.
The idea was to create an application in which users could have states next to their names about activities they were doing at the time. This idea allowed Koum to find the WhatsApp name quickly since it is a play on words that includes “What’s Up” and “App.”
In 2009, he developed the application for the iOS operating system and managed to establish WhatsApp Inc. in the state of California. Koum provided the app to several people, including Fisherman, for testing, which did not go as expected.
After several unsuccessful attempts, Jan thought it was time to abandon the project and look for another job. Just then, Brian remarked that he would be a fool if he left it. He assured him that he needed time to succeed and that he could begin to see positive results in a few months.
Shortly after, Apple released a push notification update to inform users of not using an app. Thanks to that, Jan decided to update WhatsApp so that a user changed their status, the rest of the users received an alert with sound. Fisherman and the other Russians who had tried it liked it and started using it to send signals to each other.
Without realizing it, status changes began to be used as a form of communication between users. At that time, WhatsApp became practically the only application capable of sending free text messages over the Internet on any Smartphone. BBM also existed, which did the same but only among BlackBerry users.
During that time, Acton was unemployed. For this reason, Koum decided to work with him from November 1 to continue the WhatsApp project. This situation occurred because Acton managed to get five people who worked at Yahoo to invest $ 250,000 as seed funds. That gave him co-founder status.
During the following years, both co-founders, along with other members of the team, developed support for other operating systems such as Android, Windows OS, and Symbian OS.
Facebook Acquires WhatsApp
After continuing to work and acquiring the success that WhatsApp has today, it was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for $ 19 billion. Facebook bought it because it wanted to become the number one company in this industry since it had realized that WhatsApp would be a potential competitor in the future that could take the throne from it.
Facebook added its own nuances to the WhatsApp application, also adding new features for business models.
Excessive changes made according to Facebook’s ambitions over the years caused Brian Acton to leave the company in 2017. He continued his life working at his Signal Foundation, which is a non-profit organization.
Jan was always against the idea of establishing this project to earn income through advertising or general marketing. Facebook was doing just what he thought was wrong and so he decided to leave the company.
More than 1,500 million people worldwide know and use WhatsApp daily, which has almost completely replaced the traditional SMS system. The company will continue to grow over the years, thanks to the leadership of Mark Zuckerberg.