The WHATSAPP Revolution!

Some seven (7) years ago many individuals within my age bracket,and were internet phone users were either active users of the then popular 2go mobile chatting platform or a BBMwhen it came to interacting and chatting with friends close and far.

Of course this is not to say other platforms did not exist, the Facebook Mobile Application is a good example among many others. In my opinion, they did not so much get a following like the earlier two mobile applications. It was just the craze then.

Most individuals that wanted to connect to the Facebook chat via their mobile appsused the 2go Social option, which loads available friends online and they get the same experience as they would get via the Facebook application alongside, an option of meeting several other people on 2go.

2go was unique, interactive and addictive. It had a STAR rating system that increased depending on how long you used the platform. You can trust humans, reaching the highest star level becomes the priority. Why you may ask? Answer is simple, “everyone wants to rated highly”. The platform also had several rooms (groups) across various interests including the bad ones. From Science to football, just name it, there was a room for it. Even states and specific locations in Nigeria had rooms.

As at then, many of us just used the platform without knowing so much about it. Its origins and even initial purpose.Well, the application, was created strictly for academic purpose among some university students in Johannesburg, South Africa, to share and upload class materials and later was commercialised by two of the founders after they left the university. [other creators left thegroup].

From then, it found its way to Nigeria and it became popular gaining as much as 13 million users. I can remember owing an account as early (or late) as my SSS 3. It was a good way for me to hook up and stay connected with secondary school mates, after that ours days in secondary school but I can remember never using it for anything academic

The Blackberry™ Messenger (BBM), on the other hand, was meant to be a strictly business communication platform for users of the highly revered Blackberry™ phones. Well, that was what the creators hoped it would be used for. Due to the high cost of the phone as at that period and it high demand, it became an item of luxury. Simple economics explains that.

Trust Nigerians, anything that will make them much more fashionable and at the same time confer a class status on them, will eventually be their latest item of accessory. And so the Blackberry™ become like a jewellery for Nigerians, it must be held when a picture is about to be taken and dangled around with the hand while taking a stroll on the street.

Comedians were not left out, they made sure they made a mockery of the trend through Ibadan people most especially. We will hear them say things like, “What’s your PIN? And uneducated responses like, “Pin ko, needle nii”. Ibadan people, no vex o. ‘PIN’ was actually the identity of each user and a user could only connect with another user through his or her Pin.

Well, I watched all the Blackberry™ Craze from the side-lines. I ‘think’ I was not too fascinated by the platform or maybe I was ‘poor’, only God knows!

Then in 2011, I came across WhatsApp. It was around June to be precise. I had just bought the trending Nokia X2-01 a week before JAMB exam in that year which they had postponed till that month supposedly because of the 2011 General Elections in Nigeria that had held earlier. You may be thinking, I bought a phone when I had an exam coming up, hold that thought, I had read. Imagine preparing for JAMB since October the year before. I don try!

I downloaded the WhatsApp application on my new phone. WhatsApp was different. You could only interact with people on your contact lists alone and I had practically very few people by then, hardly five. Then one day, not too far off, I was surfing through “naijaloaded” when I came across a thread about WhatsApp, after reading through, I found out that there were many like me in need of who to interact with. People were dropping their numbers requesting chat ups. I dropped mine and even copied some. It was through that, that I met Oladimeji Fatoki.

Fast forward to 2016. What has happened to 2go and BBM? To start with 2go, in my opinion is dead! If I state that it has no users, then I am clearly wrong and have stated a fallacy, but its user engagement has dropped. While an active user, I enjoyed the platform and even achieved a (very) HIGH star rating but in the last three years, I can remember spending up to 15 minutes online. What happened? Well, I don’t know, but we can find out.

For the BBM on the other hand, technology ran faster than its originators, “Research In Motion™”. The mass production of Android devices beginning in the early 2000’s made Blackberry™ less attractable. Blackberry’s CEO initially was once quoted in the earlier years as saying “the Android will not last and had a poor and weak algorithm”. Well, he was proved wrong and the organisation in a bid to keep the BBM alive made a franchise agreement on the application, to make it operational on other smartphones operating system like the Android and Apples’ iOS.

All of a sudden, everyone had a BBM. Luxury good, now a normal good! KILODE!!!

At this point, I was an android phone user but I when not qualified to use the BBM application, my phone specification didn’t meet the standard Android 4.0 OS and above. But, I was only curious to explore the application on an android device. I later joined BBM, but when it only became expedient to connect with a member of the opposite sex that didn’t like WhatsApp.

For WhatsApp with just oversix (6) years since its launch in January 2010, how much has it faired? In terms of user engagement, it has the second highest ever recorded in the history of tech and social media with over 1.3 billion active users worldwide as at April 2016which is just a few million lower than Facebooks’ 1.59billion users. Remarkably, it hit 1 billion users just in February 2016, no wonder Facebook paid a sum of $19billion in February 19th 2014 to acquire the platform way above its valued estimates. PracticallyWhatsApp has taken over.This is much more than the 190 million BBM users as at 2015 and over 50 million users of 2go in Africa.

The WhatsApp application unlike the Blackberry™ at its initials was made available to all OS starting with Apple, then Blackberry™ and later Android. It is currently available on the Nokia Symbian and S40 Series as well as the Windows Smartphone. WhatsApp software automatically compares all the phone numbers from the device's address book with its central database of WhatsApp users to automatically add contacts to the user's WhatsApp contact list.

The application is not without problems and defaults however, for example it has privacy issues and accused of storing user data and details on its servers. Also, the application faces stiff competition from Telegram, Line (170 Million active users), WeChat (468million active users) and Viber(209 million active users) among others, as any fundamental error by WhatsApp will cause users to move to other platforms however, it is trying to become more competitive through it end-to-end newly upgraded encryption and introduction of call services and sending of PDF documents.

It will be safe to conclude that the WhatsApp may just stay longer than now into the foreseeable future. But, how far is what tech pundits can’t say in this world of rapidly changing technology and innovation. Let’s keep our figures crossed and WhatsApp?

What lessons does this teach?

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Articles by Abiola Ayodeji Gbemisola