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

Chinese unmanned lunar orbiter returns home
Beijing, Nov 1 (IANS) China succeeded Saturday in the world's first mission to the Moon and back, becoming the third nation to do so after the former Soviet Union and the US.
 
 
China pledges $81 mn financial assistance for Afghanistan
Beijing, Oct 31 (IANS) China Friday pledged to provide non-reimbursable assistance of 500 million yuan (about 81 million dollars) to Afghanistan this year at an international meeting on Afghanistan held here.
 
 
EU seeks talks with Russia over goods duties: WTO
Geneva, Oct 31 (IANS) The European Union (EU) has sought a consultation with Russia over the tariffs the latter imposed on certain agricultural and manufactured goods, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) said Friday.
 
 
Virgin Galactic's spaceship crashes during test flight
Los Angeles, Nov 1 (IANS) A passenger rocket plane developed by Virgin Galactic's crashed Friday after suffering an "in-flight anomaly" during a powered test flight over the US state of California, the company said.
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Sheen keen to return to 'Two and a Half Men'
Los Angeles, Nov 1 (IANS) Actor Charlie Sheen says he is open to a return to popular TV show "Two and a Half Men". Sheen, who was was fired from the sitcom in March 2011 after a series of negative headlines, says he...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
14 killed in Honduras bus crash
Tegucigalpa, Nov 1 (IANS) At least 14 people were killed and scores injured when a bus carrying them plunged into a ravine in western Honduras, media reports said Friday. The accident, which occurred early in the day...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
US urges peaceful transition of power in Burkina Faso
Washington, Nov 1 (IANS) The US Friday called for a "peaceful" transition of power in Burkina Faso, but refused to label the military's take-over as a coup. "We underscored our commitment to peaceful transitions of...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
'Interstellar' about bonds of love: Jessica Chastain
Los Angeles, Nov 1 (IANS) Actress Jessica Chastain says that her forthcoming science fiction "Interstellar" is also about fathers and the bonds of love. In the movie, she plays Matthew McConaughey's character's...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Chinese unmanned lunar orbiter returns home
Beijing, Nov 1 (IANS) China succeeded Saturday in the world's first mission to the Moon and back, becoming the third nation to do so after the former Soviet Union and the US. The test lunar orbiter, nicknamed "Xiaofei...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Avril Lavigne feels 'a bit lost'
Avril Lavigne feels ''a bit lost'' amid rumors her marriage to Chad Kroeger is on the rocks. The 'Here's to Never Growing Up' singer, who recently celebrated her 30th birthday without her husband, reportedly thinks her...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Scott Disick is battling severe anxiety
Scott Disick admits his anxiety makes him ''literally want to jump out of my skin.'' The 31-year-old reality TV star - whose longtime girlfriend Kourtney Kardashian is set to give birth to their third child in December...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Demi Lovato wants to be 'sexier' this Halloween
Demi Lovato says working out has boosted her confidence. The 22-year-old singer, who sought treatment for a number of issues, including an eating disorder, in rehab in late 2010, is planning to wear a ''sexier''...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Usher's son is his toughest critic
Usher's son doesn't think he's a great singer. The 'She Came To Give It To You' hitmaker admits his youngest child, Nayvid, five, is very critical of his performances. The 36-year-old star said: ''He doesn't care about...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Rogen may star in Steve Jobs biopic
Los Angeles, Nov 1 (IANS) Actor Seth Rogen is reportedly in talks with Sony studio to star as Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in their upcoming Steve Jobs biopic. "Zero Dark Thirty" star Jessica Chastain is also being...
Read more on Celebrity Balla