WhatsApp, the new $16 billion crown jewel in Facebook’s war chest, just announced that it will be adding phone calls to its cross-platform text messaging service in Q2 of this year.
Right now, though, we know very little about what the voice calling feature will look like or how it will be implemented. But speaking at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona Monday, chief executive Jan Koum explained that rival messaging services like Kakao (South Korea) and Viber (Cyprus) already offer in-app voice calling–Facebook Messenger does, too–meaning WhatsApp has some catching up to do. The new calling feature is expected to roll out first for Android and iOS before eventually expanding to Windows Phone and BlackBerry.
It’s been quite a week for WhatsApp ever since Facebook announced it was paying more than Iceland’s GDP for the breezy messaging platform. Though ugly and primitive, the app has garnered numerous accolades (including a spot on Fast Company‘s Most Innovative Companies list) thanks in part to its ad-free business model and typically reliable service.
However, over the weekend, with the Facebook deal’s spotlight still warm, WhatsApp experienced a very public and embarrassing four-hour outage, which apparently caused some of its 465 million monthly active users to flee to rival services. Telegram Messenger, for example, saw an influx of 5 million people sign up shortly thereafter.CG