WhatsApp, the insanely popular instant messaging service used by 190 million monthly active users, is about to get a big splash of Facebook blue. The social media giant announced it is acquiring the cross-platform messaging service for $16 billion–more specifically, $12 billion in stock and $4 billion in cash, per the SEC filing. Facebook says the agreement also “provides for an additional $3 billion in restricted stock units to be granted to WhatsApp’s founders and employees that will vest over four years subsequent to closing.”
If completed, the deal would far and away mark the single largest acquisition by Facebook to date, with the previous largest belonging to Instagram for $1 billion. (So, yes, Facebook is ostensibly paying 16 Instagrams for WhatsApp.) WhatsApp was number 42 on our list of the World’s Most Innovative Companies, thanks in part to its consumer-friendly business model, which is free to use for a year, then $1 after.
“WhatsApp has built a leading and rapidly growing real-time mobile messaging service,” said Facebook in a statement. “The acquisition supports Facebook and WhatsApp’s shared mission to bring more connectivity and utility to the world by delivering core internet services efficiently and affordably. The combination will help accelerate growth and user engagement across both companies.”
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg added in a clarifying status update that WhatsApp (thankfully) won’t be integrated into Messenger. Rather, “WhatsApp will continue to operate independently within Facebook… The product roadmap will remain unchanged and the team is going to stay in Mountain View.” In a blog post, WhatsApp reiterated this, saying, “Here’s what will change for you, our users: nothing.”
WhatsApp’s purchase–which eclipses Google’s largest acquisition, Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion–jibes with Facebook’s plans for the future, which will hum along on an ecosystem of standalone apps and products.
Fast Company has reached out to WhatsApp for comment and will update this post when we hear back.