Skip to content
Subscriber Only
Business
Pursuits

WhatsApp vs. Asian Rivals: The Mobile-Messaging War Goes Global

Facebook’s WhatsApp takes on an array of Asian rivals
WhatsApp vs. Asian Rivals: The Mobile-Messaging War Goes Global
Photograph by Brent Lewin/Bloomberg

As more people choose to send messages through free apps instead of paying to use their smartphones’ standard texting services, valuations of companies that make the apps are soaring. Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp came just five days after Rakuten, the largest e-commerce company in Japan, snapped up messaging service Viber for $900 million. SoftBank is seeking to buy a stake in Japan’s top mobile messenger, Line. Even BlackBerry could cash in. With 85 million users, its BBM messaging service suddenly looks ripe for a spinoff.

Buying a messaging service is a quick way for tech companies to add tens of millions of customers. “Anybody in the technology space that has a pillar product around conversations and connecting people together could be a potential buyer,” says Brian Blau, a social media analyst at Gartner.