When Facebook paid $18 billion to buy WhatsApp, the tech world was astonished. Sure, WhatsApp was already a big chat app by then, but that’s a whole lot of money. Slowly but surely, it’s becoming obvious that Facebook knew exactly what it was doing.
The rapid strides taken by WhatsApp in adding users and keeping them hooked has no match. According to Google Trends, it’s the fastest growing social network. And make no mistake, while this is primarily an instant messaging app, it is doing the same things that certain social networks do.
The biggest among them is Twitter. Yes, everyone needs Twitter in their lives, but WhatsApp is filling the void of Twitter for many. And that is reason enough for Twitter to be scared of WhatsApp. But there’s more to it than that.
WhatsApp and Chat Apps Are Bigger
Twitter officially has 310 million active users monthly. That’s a huge number for any startup. But WhatsApp has already passed one billion monthly active users, and is growing at a faster rate than Twitter. There is no question about which direction the wind is blowing.
A recent messaging app analysis by Business Insider found that messaging apps (with WhatsApp leading the way) have grown more than social networks have. A senior researcher at research analysis firm IDC said there is a growing consensus that Twitter’s decline is due to the increase of users—especially younger ones—in WhatsApp.
“Messaging is one of the few things that people do more than social networking.”
—Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Founder, Facebook
Why Twitter Is Facing Problems
People use Twitter mainly because of its speed and outreach. It has become the place to go to when you want to find breaking news or updates. And the number of voices you hear from are diverse and varied.
However, this also leads to an information overload at other times. The constantly updating timeline can be overwhelming for many people.
— MissWunderbar (@MsWunderbar) May 20, 2016
Then there was the whole thing about Twitter going beyond 140 characters. Again, users weren’t asking for this, but it’s a move Twitter felt compelled to make in their own wisdom.
Whichever way you look at it, the numbers don’t lie: Twitter is shrinking.
How WhatsApp Is Hitting Twitter
Where Twitter seems to be trying to fix problems that don’t exist, WhatsApp has been continuously adding new features users want. By listening to its community, it has added desktop clients for Windows and Mac, voice calls, chat backups, and other neat features.
Much like Twitter, WhatsApp now also provides people with the updates they want. Companies and media houses are making WhatsApp-based services for news broadcasts and updates, giving you everything from health information to job alerts.
And then there’s reaching companies. You can complain about bad service on Twitter, but that starts a public blame-game, which might not be useful or your style. Companies are also trying WhatsApp for customer service, and it works well.
The Non-English Factor
There has always been a certain type of elitism on Twitter that is unwelcoming of bad English. Accounts like Grammar Police have a huge following.
You can create an entire point about your argument & dickheads will ignore what you've said to correct "It's you're not your"
— Hibby (@Adolfhibsta) June 22, 2016
There is a lot of public shaming on Twitter about trivial matters, especially in a world of touchscreen autocorrect mistakes. WhatsApp, on the other hand, has had the opposite effect.
Non-native english speakers are building confidence and learning to use the language. In India, there are teachers and students learning English through WhatsApp. Heck, a young Indian cricketer publicly credited WhatsApp for becoming more confident while speaking English.
My Personal Experience
I’m an avid Twitter user and an avid WhatsApp user. In the past year, I have noticed a visible decrease in the time it takes for a news event I see on Twitter and for someone to relay that on a WhatsApp group.
Twitter’s news-centric approach is not setting it apart unless you’re an information junkie, because there are enough curators and relayers of news now. When a celebrity tweets about something important, it circulates quickly on all types of Internet media, not just on Twitter.
My parents both use WhatsApp extensively, but never Twitter. I have friends and family who are buying phones for their help purely because WhatsApp is considered a necessity for a working person. WhatsApp has people of diverse age groups, social groups, incomes, and tastes using it regularly. Meanwhile Twitter is almost like a game of six degrees of separation, only it stops at three degrees every time.
Can WhatsApp Replace Twitter?
While Twitter should be afraid of WhatsApp’s rapid rise, I do believe both have their own audiences and cater to different needs. In my opinion, WhatsApp won’t replace Twitter, but it is likely to take a huge chunk of Twitter’s existing users who aren’t it in for news and timely updates.
But that’s just my two cents. What do you think? Can WhatsApp replace Twitter? Have you ended up uninstalling Twitter and find some sort of chat app to be a better way to stay in touch with your friends and family?