The Disappointing Contradictions Of WhatsApp Being Acquired By Facebook

Feb 20 2014, 9:19am CST | by

It’s rare to find a company in Silicon Valley that refuses to turn its users’ information into advertising revenue.

Google, Microsoft, and Twitter all do it – the last few years have been an arms race to see who can delve deeper into your life to get you to part with your money. But the founders of WhatsApp, a smartphone messaging service that is wildly popular around the world, proudly declared they would never make their users the product. They built their brand off of this guiding philosophy and used it to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

It appears these deep moral convictions were short-lived though. WhatsApp has just sold for a massive sum to Facebook, the company that has aggressively turned your social interactions into a revenue source. Whatever promises of autonomy the founders are giving to users right now mean little – the 450 million+ WhatsApp users are now part of the Facebook empire. The same entrepreneur who once said that ads are “insults to your intelligence and the interruption of your train of thought” is now on the board of a company that has built one of the most invasive advertising platforms in history.

There have been some early assurances that we won’t be seeing ads on WhatsApp. However, there are also ominous warnings of a coming monetization once growth reaches a certain level.

But ads are just one aspect of not making the user the product – it’s far more complex than what you see on your screen. Like Google, Facebook is becoming a collection of apps and services instead of a single website. Just as Google has used the Google+ social network as a tool for consolidating personal information, Facebook has been singularly focused on becoming your online identity. What you do and say in one place is sure to be analyzed for use in another – and there have been no specific promises made about collecting, sharing, and analyzing the content of messages, relationships, and financial information that WhatsApp holds.

It’s no surprise that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg would act shrewdly in the interest of his company or that a business would try to make the most amount of money it possibly can. The story behind WhatsApp is a remarkable tale of hardship, vision, and perseverance. But once the celebrating and armchair analysis are over, what is left is a cautionary tale for consumers. In the rough, fast-moving world of technology, start-ups simply don’t have the credibility anymore to tell you how your information will be used down the line. So as users, you must act accordingly.

WhatsApp is hardly alone; throughout the industry there is a focus on short-term gain over long-term impact. Few entrepreneurs want to build brands that last anymore. Silicon Valley looks down upon those who are not trying to sell out to a corporate giant as soon as possible. Just look at the criticism that SnapChat founder Evan Spiegel received for having the “audacity” to turn down an acquisition offer from Facebook. This gets to a greater contradiction at the heart of start-up culture today: the rhetoric is all about being different while the reality is starting to resemble corporate business as usual.

In a company blog post, WhatsApp has made one final promise: “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.” Whether that is actually true or just more marketing and spin is up for the users to decide. All they need to do is look at what happened yesterday to see what lies ahead.

Follow @twadhwa

Check out my upcoming book, Identified: Why They Are Getting To Know Everything About Us

Source: Forbes Business

 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

Lucintel Profiles Top Global Home Care Products Manufacturing Companies
The global home care products industry, which has experienced good progress in recent years, expected to carry on with its growth momentum for the near term. The market is expected to reach $146 billion in annual revenue within the next five years.
 
 
Keyideas Celebrates 5 Years of Successful Web Application Development
Attaining five years of success for a software development company in India or elsewhere is quite an accomplishment, Keyideas leaders point out.
 
 
GL Announces Enhanced UMTS IuCS and IuH with Iu-UP Protocol Support
Gaithersburg, MD, April 16, 2014 --(PR.com)-- GL Communications Inc., announced today the release of enhanced MAPS™ UMTS IuCS and IuH Interface Emulator with Iu-UP protocol layer of the Radio Network that is...
 
 
Connecticut Real Estate Investors Association (CT REIA) Announces April 2014 Real Estate Investing Seminar with REO Expert Sue Nelson
On April 21, 2014 the Connecticut Real Estate Investors Association (CT REIA) will be hosting its monthly meeting with Sue Nelson in Meriden, CT. Attendees will learn how to buy notes and real estate directly from banks.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Jamie Foxx: Being 'fly' is costly
Jamie Foxx says being "fly" is too expensive. 'The Amazing Spider-Man 2' star has had a varied career since rising to fame over twenty years ago, and although he's a multi-millionaire he confesses living up to the...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Goodbye And Good Riddance, Alibaba?
A survey by the Asian Corporate Governance Association, a corporate governance group whose members manage more than $14 trillion of assets, has found little support for changes in Hong Kong listing rules that would...
Read more on Business Balla
 
What Free Agents? Melo's Not Going Anywhere, Nor Are LeBron, Wade, Dirk...
This isn’t what the wretched of the NBA expected after slashing payrolls and trading front-line players for No. 1 picks. If the 2014 draft class wasn’t all it was supposed to be, there may barely be a 2014 free agent...
Read more on Business Balla
 
The 9 Best Jobs In Africa Don't Exist Yet
Sixty percent of the best jobs in the next 10 years haven’t been invented yet. At least that’s what futurologist Thomas Frey is fond of saying. This is great news because lots of good, new jobs will be needed in order...
Read more on Business Balla
 
The College Degrees And Skills Employers Most Want
The hiring picture is improving for the college class of 2014. According to a new survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), employers are planning to hire 8.6% more graduates for their U.S....
Read more on Business Balla
 
Do You Have The 'Stickability' To Be A Successful Entrepreneur?
It’s no secret that successful entrepreneurs have something special that sets them apart from just the dabblers and hobbyists, but exactly what is it that’s different? Every business venture runs into obstacles,...
Read more on Business Balla
 
The Masters Post Mortem And Prognosis Without Tiger Woods
null Before the Masters, I suggested the leaders of golf carefully examine this 2014 event without Tiger Woods. It would be a forecast of the future of golf without him, which is, of course, inevitable. The examination...
Read more on Business Balla
 
'X-Men: Days Of Future Past' Gets One Last Trailer
I suppose I should have seen this coming. I spent the last three months praising the relative restraint of the X-Men: Days of Future Past marketing campaign. Up until three weeks ago, we had only seen a single trailer,...
Read more on Business Balla
 
 
Auto Balla Sexy Balla Sport Balla TV Balla Politics Balla Movie Balla Apple Balla Business Balla Ad Balla Celebrity Balla