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Facebook Sees WhatsApp As Its Future, Antitrust Suit or Not

The messaging service makes practically no money now, but Mark Zuckerberg has plans to change that.  

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Photo Illustration: 731; Photos: Alamy; Getty Images

On the final day of November, Facebook Inc. announced it had bought a customer service software startup most people had never heard of, in a deal valuing the company at more than $1 billion. Although it was the third-largest acquisition in Facebook’s history, slightly more than it paid for Instagram in 2012, the deal drew very little notice. In Washington, where regulators are actively pursuing antitrust lawsuits against Facebook and politicians condemn almost every move the company makes, the purchase of Kustomer Inc. was met with crickets.

But if the deal’s significance isn’t clear now, it could be soon. Acquiring Kustomer is the latest in a series of expensive bets related to Facebook’s $19 billion purchase of WhatsApp in 2014. Earlier this year it invested in Jio Platforms, an Indian internet giant that WhatsApp plans to partner with on commerce. While not an acquisition, the $5.7 billion Jio investment was Facebook’s second-largest financial deal ever. Taken together, the moves add up to an investment in private messaging of about $26 billion.