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]