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.