- My wife’s friend who runs a boutique went to an old market to buy cloth material for her shop – the salesman asked her to send the specific color she wants with a picture via Whatsapp. Think of an old dusty market and think of this again.
- My wife’s friend who is a recent mom talks to her paediatrician via whatsapp for advice and general questions, and the doctor replies back (regardless of location).
- An uncle and aunt in US go for shopping in the big malls and send photos to each other of whether they should pick up that item or not.
- My uncle and aunt were in town and we went shopping – again, we sent photos of the T-shirts to their son in another town to ask whether he likes the shirt enough to buy it – decision done, shirt bought, no risk of a T-shirt going unused.
- Recently, there was an incident in Bangalore because of which SMSes were restricted, which is like a heart attack for teenagers, including my sister – they all downloaded Whatsapp and shifted to it in an instant. “SMS costs – be gone!” Luckily, Whatsapp was free for a day or so in the iTunes app store around the same time and my sister, who is using my old iPhone (which is still working after 4 years) and does not have a credit card, grabbed it with eager fingers and is loving it.
I could go on and on, the point remains that the pervasiveness of it still surprises me. And it surprises many of my peers who grew up with email, Yahoo! Messenger, Google Talk, etc.
So I was imagining what could be the reasons that Whatsapp is so popular, and here are some wild guesses:
- 2G on mobile is finally affordable? Now that 3G is more common and has been around for a couple of years, the slower predecessor has finally become cheap enough.
- WiFi is more common now?
- BlackBerry “BB-PIN” popularized the concept of instant messaging to a new phone-using generation, but people needed something cross-platform and Whatsapp was in the right place at the right time?
- Whatsapp is available on most mobile operating systems including many older generation platforms such as Symbian, so people are not left out of the conversation.
- Why didn’t people simply use GTalk? I’m guessing it’s because of the “create a Google account” barrier as well as GTalk not being as feature-full?
- Talking about features – groups, photo sharing, video sharing is a natural extension that was just meant to happen, Whatsapp makes it free (as opposed to SMS/MMS)
- The details in Whatsapp are great – for example, every message has two ticks – one that says it has gone from your phone to the server, the second tick shows that it has gone from the server to the other person’s phone – an in-built message delivery status as opposed to guessing whether the SMS has reached the other person
- Did I mention how useful the groups feature is? I’m keeping in touch with friends all over the world through the same – in particular, one group has people in USA, Singapore, India all in one group and having a conversation at the same time.
- So why didn’t email do the same? Because people have a work email/personal email distinction whereas a phone is undoubtedly personal? Because people don’t like to differentiate between a subject line and a body line (don’t laugh, I did too until I realized this is actually a barrier), they just want to “chat” because people are already familiar with SMS?
These are just my rough line of thought about this whole thing and I just wanted to write it down because many of my friends have asked the same question.
What are your thoughts?