How Popular Is WhatsApp Around the World?

WhatsApp has become the most popular messaging solution in the world, with nearly one billion people using it. WhatsApp co-creator Jan Koum announced that the app had 900 million active users in September 2015, The Daily Express reported .

Jan Koum

Around one in seven people in the world now utilizes WhatsApp, according to a Daily Express estimate. These numbers alone show why Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was willing to shell out $19 billion for WhatsApp last year.

WhatsApp was well ahead of its closest competitor, Facebook’s Internet Messenger, which had around 700 million users. That means Facebook’s messaging solutions now have around 1.6 billion users worldwide.

Messaging Is Now a Very Big Business

The most competitive non-Facebook app was the Chinese-based WeChat. WeChat came in third in the messaging app race, with around 600 million users, mostly in the People’s Republic. Some other popular messaging apps included:

  • Tango, with around 300 million users.

  • Japan’s Line, which claims to have been downloaded by 600 million people.
  • India’s NimBuzz, with 150 million users.
  • Viber, which had around 606 million users worldwide, according to Statista.
  • Microsoft’s Skype, with around 300 million users and 500 million installs on Google Play.

As you can see, messaging is now a very big business. Yet these numbers can be deceptive because it is not clear how active these users are. Despite that, it is easy to see why tech companies and venture capital firms are willing to spend big money for messaging services. Viber is now owned by the Japanese company Rakuten, and Alibaba is a major investor in Tango.

Where Is WhatsApp the Most Popular?

The interesting thing about WhatsApp is that it is not very popular or successful in its home country, the United States. Only around 8% of Americans use WhatsApp, according to data provided by Statista.

The reason why WhatsApp is so popular and so valuable can be clearly seen in numbers from the rest of the world. These Statista statistics clearly show that WhatsApp is now the messaging solution of choice in many parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia:

Percentage of WhatsApp users by country:

  • South Africa – 78%
  • Malaysia – 75%
  • Argentina – 74%
  • Singapore – 72%
  • Hong Kong – 71%
  • Spain – 70%
  • India – 69%
  • Mexico – 67%
  • Italy – 62%
  • The Netherlands – 61%
  • Germany – 57%
  • Brazil – 56%
  • Saudi Arabia – 56%
  • Indonesia – 52%
  • Turkey – 49%

As you can see, WhatsApp seems to have universal appeal. It is popular in a wide variety of countries with very different language and cultures. What’s truly interesting is where it is not widely used.

Who Does Not Use WhatsApp

One place WhatsApp is even less well known than the United States is Japan, where its rate was 0%. WhatsApp was not very popular in South Korea or China either; only 2% of South Koreans and 4% of Chinese used it. One reason why WhatsApp is not very successful in those countries is that local solutions already have a huge share of the market.

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In South Korea, around 93% of smartphone users employ a local app called KakaoTalk, CNET reported . One reason why KakaoTalk is so popular is that you can use it to buy vouchers to purchase food and services with the app. KakaoTalk is also open source, so it is possible to make unique themes on it.

Another reason why WhatsApp is not popular in some countries is that its most appealing feature is the ability to send messages, including pictures, video, and audio, between countries for free or at a low cost. That has little appeal to people that rarely send messages to other nations.

WhatsApp seems to be the most popular in countries like Spain, Mexico, Turkey, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, where a lot of people regularly travel or work outside the nation. Around 34% of the people in Ireland and Great Britain used WhatsApp, while only 13% of Canadians used it, according to Statista.

Why Is WhatsApp So Popular?

There are a number of other factors fueling WhatsApp’s popularity, including its low cost and ease of use. WhatsApp seems to be most popular in less affluent countries, where many people use smartphones as their primary means of communication.

This certainly seems to be the case in South Africa, Malaysia, and Argentina, which are developing countries. Argentina in particular has been racked by serious economic problems, including inflation, that have significantly reduced the incomes of average people.

Meanwhile, WhatsApp is not very popular in some richer countries, including Australia, where only 16% of people use it; Sweden, where only 10% of the nation uses it; Japan and France, where 6% of the population takes advantage of it; and the United States, where only 8% of people use it.

Many people in those nations have access to other often more sophisticated messaging solutions. They are also more likely to have access to laptop or desktop computers, which make solutions like Facebook and Skype more appealing.

Encryption Enhances WhatsApp’s Popularity

Another aspect of WhatsApp’s appeal is its high level of encryption. It offers end to end encryption that is very hard to crack. WhatsApp is so secure that in Britain Prime Minister David Cameron has been trying to get it banned because intelligence agencies have a hard time reading messages on it, The Daily Express reported .

That makes WhatsApp very appealing in nations like Germany, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Africa, Malaysia, Spain, Italy, and Saudi Arabia, which have long histories of government spying on citizens. It also makes WhatsApp very popular in Hong Kong, where many people fear the Chinese government could be monitoring their communications.

The encryption also gives governments like that in China a strong reason to discourage WhatsApp use. Oppressive governments obviously do not want their citizens to have access to means of communication that can allow them to plan revolution or civil disobedience in secret.

That also makes WhatsApp somewhat less popular in nations like the United States and Germany, where there are strong legal protections for privacy. People that trust their governments are less likely to use secure solutions.

It is obvious that WhatsApp is now the most popular messaging solution in the world, and it could soon have one billion users. When that occurs, it will make Mr. Zuckerberg’s $19 billion purchase price look like a bargain.

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