WhatsApp Surpasses 250 Million Active Users

WhatsApp tells The Wall Street Journal it has more than 250 million monthly active users, the first time it has revealed a rough number of users for its popular smartphone messaging app.

The figure is impressive for a company that launched its app just four years ago and that spends no money marketing itself. It makes WhatsApp one of the largest messaging platforms and possibly bigger than Twitter, which in December announced it had eclipsed 200 million monthly active users. Microsoft MSFT -3.18% in October said its video-chat service Skype had 280 million monthly active users.

WhatsApp’s growth is of concern to many other companies. That includes telecom carriers that make huge profits billing for text messages as well as Facebook FB -1.68% whose traffic relies in part on users trading messages with one another.

Indeed, Facebook has its own separate smartphone app for messaging. It hasn’t disclosed how many use it, but in a sign of its popularity, the Facebook Messenger app is currently ranked sixth in the U.S. among free Android apps in the Google Play Store and 44th in the U.S. among free iPhone apps. For the iPhone, WhatsApp charges a one-time, 99-cent fee, and is ranked first among paid iPhone apps in the U.S. The app is free to download for Android devices, but charges 99 cents after the first year of service. It is currently ranked 31st in the U.S. among free Android apps.

A big reason for the popularity of such apps is that they allow their users to message one another without paying high fees for text messages. Apple’s iMessage service works similarly, though it only allows iPhone users to trade messages with one another. WhatsApp is available for the iPhone, Android devices, BlackBerry and Windows Phone among others. Facebook works with the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry, but is unique in that it also enables users to trade messages between desktop computers and mobile devices.

In April, WhatsApp chief executive Jan Koum did offer a clue as to the size of the WhatsApp user base, saying on stage at the All Things D Mobile conference that WhatsApp was bigger than Twitter.

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