WhatsApp

For massively disrupting, while also setting up a smart business model

What does it mean to be an innovator? Our editors debated many companies--and and throughout the list, we're running some of their discussions. This is how we settled on WhatsApp.

YEA: WhatsApp's messaging service is at the very core of the digital revolution. We used to pay (way too much!) for SMS from wireless companies. Now we don't. Boom.

NAY: Hooray! But when you just give away what someone else used to sell, you're not exactly a scalable company.

YEA: Its business model is ­totally sane and consumer-friendly: Use it free for a year, then pay a buck.

NAY: Doesn't that give all the other free messaging apps an opportunity to scoop up ­WhatsApp's customers?

YEA: Well, it's consistently among the top paid apps, so ­users seem on board. And ­unlike competitors, which sell virtual stickers and ­barrage you with One Direction ads, ­WhatsApp is clean and uncluttered.

NAY: Nice--I'm sick of One ­Direction! But if WhatsApp isn't adding new products, it's just setting itself up for stagnation.

YEA: Adding 50 million active users a quarter to its total of 400 million--you call that stagnation? And it quietly opened up its platform for developers, which should lead to users sharing music and other content in the app. That's what's up.

Conclusion: Yea!
WhatsApp is wrestling ­messaging away from the Verizons of the world and commanding more ­attention from the under-25ers who used to love Facebook. But, equally important, it has a ­business model that's a ­refreshing change for an ad-addled public.

[Illustration by Richard Perez]