The oldest device that was capable of running WhatsApp was the Symbian-based Nokia N95 released in March 2007 (which is no longer functioning as of June 2017).
WhatsApp was founded in 2009 by Brian Acton and Jan Koum, both former employees of Yahoo!. After Koum and Acton left Yahoo! in September 2007, the duo traveled to South America to take a break from work. At one point, they applied for jobs at Facebook but were rejected. For the rest of the following years Koum relied on his $400,000 savings from Yahoo!.
In January 2009, after purchasing an iPhone and realizing the potential of the app industry on the App Store, Koum started visiting his friend Alex Fishman in West San Jose where the three would discuss "... having statuses next to individual names of the people", but this was not possible without an iPhone developer. Fishman found a Russian developer on RentACoder.com, Igor Solomennikov, and introduced him to Koum. Koum named the app "WhatsApp" to sound like "what's up". On February 24, 2009, he incorporated WhatsApp Inc. in California. However, because early versions of WhatsApp often crashed or got stuck at a particular point, Koum felt like giving up and looking for a new job, upon which Acton encouraged him to wait for a "few more months".
In June 2009, Apple launched push notifications, allowing users to be pinged when they were not using an app. Koum changed WhatsApp so that when a user's status is changed, everyone in the user's network would be notified. WhatsApp 2.0 was released with a messaging component and the number of active users suddenly increased to 250,000. Acton was still unemployed and managing another startup, and he decided to join the company. In October 2009, Acton persuaded five former friends in Yahoo! to invest $250,000 in seed funding, and Acton became a co-founder and was given a stake. He officially joined on November 1. After months at beta stage, the application eventually launched in November 2009 exclusively on the App Store for the iPhone. Koum then hired a friend who lived in Los Angeles, Chris Peiffer, to develop the BlackBerry version, which arrived two months later.
After months at beta stage, the application eventually launched in November 2009 exclusively on the App Store for the iPhone. In January 2010, support for BlackBerry smartphones was added, and subsequently for Symbian OS in May 2010 and for Android OS in August 2010. In August 2011, a beta for Nokia's non-smartphone OS Series 40 was added. A month later, support for Windows Phone was added, followed by BlackBerry 10 in March 2013. In April 2015, support for Samsung's Tizen OS was added. An unofficial port has been released for the MeeGo-based Nokia N9 called Wazapp, as well as a port for the Maemo-based Nokia N900 called Yappari.
WhatsApp was switched from a free to paid service to avoid growing too fast, mainly because the primary cost was sending verification texts to users. In December 2009, the ability to send photos was added to WhatsApp for the iPhone. By early 2011, WhatsApp was one of the top 20 apps in Apple's U.S. App Store.
In April 2011, Sequoia Capital invested approximately $8 million for more than 15 percent of the company, after months of negotiation with Sequoia partner Jim Goetz.
WhatsApp competes with a number of Asian-based messaging services (that as of 2014, were services like WeChat (468 million active users), Viber (209 million active users ) and LINE (170 million active users ), WhatsApp handled ten billion messages per day in August 2012, growing from two billion in April 2012, and one billion the previous October. On June 13, 2013, WhatsApp announced that they had reached their new daily record by processing 27 billion messages. According to the Financial Times, WhatsApp "has done to SMS on mobile phones what Skype did to international calling on landlines."
By February 2013, WhatsApp had about 200 million active users and 50 staff members. Sequoia invested another $50 million, and WhatsApp was valued at $1.5 billion.
In a December 2013 blog post, WhatsApp claimed that 400 million active users used the service each month.
As of November 30, 2015, the Android client for WhatsApp started making links to another messenger called Telegram unclickable and uncopyable. This is an active block, as confirmed by multiple sources, rather than a bug, and the Android source code which recognizes Telegram URLs has been identified. URLs with "telegram" as domain-name are targeted actively and explicitly – the word "telegram" appears in the code. This functioning risks being considered anti-competitive, and has not been explained by WhatsApp. In response to the Facebook acquisition in 2014, Slate columnist Matthew Yglesias questioned whether the company's business model of charging users $1 a year was viable in the United States in the long term. It had prospered by exploiting a "loophole" in mobile phone carriers' pricing. "Mobile phone operators aren't really selling consumers some voice service, some data service, and some SMS service", he explained. "They are selling access to the network. The different pricing schemes they come up with are just different ways of trying to maximize the value they extract from consumers." As part of that, carriers sold SMS separately. That made it easy for WhatsApp to find a way to replicate SMS using data, and then sell that to mobile customers for $1 a year. "But if WhatsApp gets big enough, then carrier strategy is going to change", he predicted. "You stop selling separate SMS plans and just have a take-it-or-leave-it overall package. And then suddenly WhatsApp isn't doing anything." The situation may have been different in countries other than the United States.
In 2014, an unofficial open source plug-in called whatsapp-purple was released for Pidgin, implementing its XMPP and making it possible to use WhatsApp on a Microsoft Windows or Linux PC. WhatsApp responded by automatically blocking phone numbers that connected to WhatsApp using this plug-in.
On May 18, 2017, it was reported that the European Commission was fining Facebook €110 million for "misleading" it during the 2014 takeover of WhatsApp. The Commission alleged that in 2014, when Facebook acquired the messaging app, it "falsely claimed it was technically impossible to automatically combine user information from Facebook and WhatsApp." However, in the summer of 2016, WhatsApp had begun sharing user information with its parent company, allowing information such as phone numbers to be used for targeted Facebook advertisements. Facebook acknowledged the breach, but said the errors in their 2014 filings were "not intentional."
At a keynote presentation at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona in February 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook's acquisition of WhatsApp was closely related to the Internet.org vision. According to a TechCrunch article, Zuckerberg's vision for Internet.org was as follows:
On February 19, 2014, months after a venture capital financing round at a $1.5 billion valuation, Facebook announced it was acquiring WhatsApp for US$19 billion, its largest acquisition to date. At the time, the acquisition was the largest purchase of a venture-backed company in history. Sequoia Capital received an approximate 50x return on its initial investment. Facebook, which was advised by Allen & Co, paid $4 billion in cash, $12 billion in Facebook shares, and (advised by Morgan Stanley) an additional $3 billion in restricted stock units granted to WhatsApp's founders, Koum and Acton. Employee stock was scheduled to vest over four years subsequent to closing. Days after the announcement, WhatsApp users experienced a loss of service, leading to anger across social media.
As of April 22, 2014, WhatsApp had over 500 million monthly active users, 700 million photos and 100 million videos were being shared daily, and the messaging system was handling more than 10 billion messages each day.
India is by far WhatsApp's largest market in terms of total number of users. In May 2014, WhatsApp crossed 50 million monthly active users in India, which is also its largest country by the number of monthly active users. , then 70 million in October 2014, making users in India 10% of WhatsApp's total user base. In February 2017, WhatsApp reached 200 million monthly active users in India.
On May 9, 2014, the government of Iran announced that it had proposed to block the access to WhatsApp service to Iranian residents. "The reason for this is the assumption of WhatsApp by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, who is an American Zionist," said Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, head of the country's Committee on Internet Crimes. Subsequently, Iranian president Hassan Rouhani issued an order to the Ministry of ICT to stop filtering WhatsApp.
In August 2014, WhatsApp released an update to its Android app, adding support for Android Wear smartwatches.
In August 2014, WhatsApp was the most globally popular messaging app, with more than 600 million active users. By early January 2015, WhatsApp had 700 million monthly active users with over 30 billion messages being sent every day. In April 2015, Forbes predicted that between 2012 and 2018, the telecommunications industry will lose a combined total of $386 billion because of OTT services like WhatsApp and Skype. That month, WhatsApp had over 800 million active users. By September 2015, the user base had grown to 900 million, and by February 2016 it had grown to one billion.
On August 24, 2014, Koum announced on his Twitter account that WhatsApp had over 600 million active users worldwide. At that point WhatsApp was adding about 25 million new users every month, or 833,000 active users per day. With 65 million active users representing 10% of the total worldwide users, India has the largest number of consumers.
On November 18, 2014, Open Whisper Systems announced a partnership with WhatsApp to provide end-to-end encryption by incorporating the encryption protocol used in Signal into each WhatsApp client platform. Open Whisper Systems said that they had already incorporated the protocol into the latest WhatsApp client for Android, and that support for other clients, group/media messages, and key verification would be coming soon after. WhatsApp confirmed the partnership to reporters, but there was no announcement or documentation about the encryption feature on the official website, and further requests for comment were declined. In April 2015, German magazine Heise Security used ARP spoofing to confirm that the protocol had been implemented for Android-to-Android messages, and that WhatsApp messages from or to iPhones running iOS were still not end-to-end encrypted. They expressed the concern that regular WhatsApp users still could not tell the difference between end-to-end encrypted messages and regular messages. On April 5, 2016, WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems announced that they had finished adding end-to-end encryption to "every form of communication" on WhatsApp, and that users could now verify each other's keys. Users were also given the option to enable a trust on first use mechanism in order to be notified if a correspondent's key changes. According to a white paper that was released along with the announcement, WhatsApp messages are encrypted with the Signal Protocol. WhatsApp calls are encrypted with SRTP, and all client-server communications are "layered within a separate encrypted channel". The Signal Protocol library used by WhatsApp is open-source and published under the GPLv3 license.
WhatsApp was officially made available for PCs through a web client, under the name WhatsApp Web, in late January 2015 through an announcement made by Koum on his Facebook page: "Our web client is simply an extension of your phone: the web browser mirrors conversations and messages from your mobile device—this means all of your messages still live on your phone". The WhatsApp user's handset must still be connected to the Internet for the browser application to function. All major desktop browsers are supported except for Internet Explorer. WhatsApp Web's user interface is based on the default Android one.
As of January 21, 2015, the desktop version was only available to Android, BlackBerry, and Windows Phone users. Later on, it also added support for iOS, Nokia Series 40, and Nokia S60 (Symbian).
On January 21, 2015, WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Web, a web client which can be used through a web browser by syncing with the mobile device's connection.
In February 2015, WhatsApp introduced a voice calling feature; this helped WhatsApp to attract a completely different segment of the user population. On November 14, 2016, Whatsapp added video calling feature for users across Android, iPhone, and Windows Phone devices.
In December 2015, it was reported that Islamic State terrorists had been using WhatsApp to plot the November 2015 Paris attacks. ISIS also uses WhatsApp to traffic sex slaves.
Turkey temporarily banned WhatsApp in 2016, following the assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey.
On January 18, 2016, WhatsApp's co-founder Jan Koum announced that the service would no longer charge their users a $1 annual subscription fee in an effort to remove a barrier faced by some users who do not have a credit card to pay for the service. He also explained that the app would not display any third party advertisement and instead would bring new features such as the ability to communicate with business organizations.
On February 26, 2016, WhatsApp announced they would cease support for BlackBerry (including BlackBerry 10), Series 40, and Symbian S60, as well as older versions of Android (2.2), Windows Phone (7.0), and iOS (6), by the end of 2016. BlackBerry, Series 40, and Symbian support was since then extended further to June 30, 2017. In June 2017, support for BlackBerry and Series 40 was once again extended until the end of 2017, while Symbian was dropped.
On March 1, 2016, Diego Dzodan, Facebook's vice-president for Latin America was arrested in Brazil for not cooperating with an investigation in which WhatsApp conversations were requested. On March 2, 2016, at dawn the next day, Dzodan was released because the Court of Appeal held that the arrest was disproportionate and unreasonable.
It has been asserted that WhatsApp is plagued by scams invites hackers to spread malicious viruses or malware. In May 2016, some WhatsApp users were reported to have been tricked into downloading a third-party application called WhatsApp Gold, which was part of a scam that infected the users' phones with malware. A message that promises to allow access to their WhatsApp friends' conversations, or their contact lists, has become the most popular hit against anyone who uses the application in Brazil. Since December, 2016, more than 1.5 million people have clicked and lost money
On May 2, 2016, mobile providers in Brazil were ordered to block WhatsApp for 72 hours for the service's second failure to cooperate with criminal court orders. Once again, the block was lifted following an appeal, after nearly 24 hours.
On May 10, 2016, the messaging service was introduced for both Microsoft Windows and macOS operating systems. WhatsApp currently does not allow audio or video calling from desktop operating systems. Similar to the WhatsApp Web format, the app, which will be synced with a user's mobile device, is available for download on the website. It supports OS versions of Windows 8 and OS X 10.9 and higher.
By June 2016, more than 100 million voice calls are made per day on WhatsApp according to a post on the company's blog.
On November 10, 2016, WhatsApp launched a two-step verification feature in beta for Android users. After enabling this feature, users can add their email address for further protection. Also in November 2016, Facebook ceased collecting WhatsApp data for advertising in Europe.
In 2017, security researchers reported to The New York Times that the WhatsApp service had been completely blocked in China. WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, whose main social media service has been blocked in China since 2009.
On January 13, 2017, The Guardian reported that security researcher Tobias Boelter had found that WhatsApp's policy of forcing re-encryption of initially undelivered messages, without informing the recipient, constituted a serious loophole whereby WhatsApp could disclose, or be compelled to disclose, the content of these messages. WhatsApp and Open Whisper Systems officials disagreed with this assessment. A follow-up article by Boelter himself explains in greater detail what he considers to be the specific vulnerability. In June 2017, The Guardian readers’ editor Paul Chadwick wrote, "The Guardian was wrong to report in January that the popular messaging service WhatsApp had a security flaw so serious that it was a huge threat to freedom of speech."
As of February 2017, WhatsApp had over 1.2 billion users globally, reaching 1.5 billion monthly active users by the end of 2017.
On February 24, 2017, (WhatsApp's 8th birthday), WhatsApp launched a new Status feature similar to Snapchat and Facebook stories.
In March 2017, U.K. Secretary of State Amber Rudd said encryption capabilities of messaging tools like WhatsApp are unacceptable, as news reported that Khalid Masood used the application several minutes before perpetrating the 2017 Westminster attack. Rudd publicly called for police and intelligence agencies to be given access to WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services to prevent future terror attacks.
In April 2017, the perpetrator of the Stockholm attack reportedly used WhatsApp to exchange messages with an ISIS supporter shortly before and after the 2017 Stockholm attack. The messages involved discussing how to make an explosive device and a confession of the perpetration the attack.
In May 2017, it was reported that WhatsApp users spend over 340 million minutes on video calls each day on the app. This is the equivalent of roughly 646 years of video calls per day.
WhatsApp Payments is a peer-to-peer money transfer feature that is set to launch in India. WhatsApp has received permission from the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) to enter into partnership with multiple banks in July 2017 to allow users to make in-app payments and money transfers using the Unified Payments Interface (UPI). UPI enables account-to-account transfers from a mobile app without having any details of the beneficiary's bank.
In September 2017, WhatsApp's co-founder Brian Acton left the company to start a non-profit, which was later revealed to be the Signal Foundation. WhatsApp also announced a forthcoming business platform which will enable companies to provide customer service to users at scale. Airlines KLM and Aeroméxico both announced their participation in the testing. Both airlines had previously launched customer services on the Facebook Messenger platform.
Until 2017, WhatsApp positioned itself as a solution for a single party with a single smartphone to communicate with another such party, enabling small businesses to use the platform to communicate with customers, but not at scale (e.g. in a contact center environment). However, in September 2017 WhatsApp announced what had long been rumored, that they are building and testing new tools for businesses to use WhatsApp:
On November 2017, Whatsapp released a new feature that would let its users delete messages sent by mistake within a time frame of 7 minutes.
In 2018 it was reported that around 500,000 NHS staff used WhatsApp and other instant messaging systems at work and around 29,000 had faced disciplinary action for doing so. Higher usage was reported by frontline clinical staff to keep up with care needs, even though NHS trust policies do not permit their use.
Support for BlackBerry and older (version 8.0) Windows Phone and older (version 6) iOS devices was dropped on January 1, 2018, but for Nokia Series 40 was extended again, until December 2018. In July 2018, it was announced that WhatsApp will soon be available for KaiOS feature phones.
In January 2018, WhatsApp launched WhatsApp Business for small business use.
WhatsApp, one of the most activated messaging apps along with other social media networks such as Facebook and Instagram were temporarily blocked, banned and had been unavailable for about two days (7–8 March 2018) in certain parts of the country to eradicate communal violence, especially the anti-Muslim riots. This was probably the first such instance where social media platforms had been banned in Sri Lanka. The ban was finally lifted on the 14th of March, 2018 around midnight time in Sri Lanka.
In April 2018, WhatsApp's co-founder and CEO Jan Koum announced that he would be leaving the company. Facebook later announced that Koum's replacement as WhatsApp's CEO would be Chris Daniels.
In July 2018, WhatsApp took action to encourage people to report fraudulent or violent messages after a wave of murders carried out by mobs on people who were falsely accused (via WhatsApp messages) of intending to abduct children.
Later in September 2018, WhatsApp introduced group audio and video call feature. In October, "Swipe to Reply" option was made available for the Android beta version, 16 months after it was introduced for iOS.