The Resurgence of the Contact List: My Take on WhatsApp


You’re probably living under a rock if you haven’t heard by now that Facebook purchased messaging service WhatsApp for $16 billion and $3 billion in RSUs. Twitter is abuzz with commentary about the acquisition so I figured I’d throw in my 2 cents.

Say what you want about the brilliance or insanity of the deal, or the fact that you could buy 64 billion McNuggets with that money, but it’s gotten me thinking about the importance of tech around the contact list. Increasingly we are using our phone numbers as the backbone for both mobile apps and security (things like 2 factor authentication) rather than email addresses. Snapchat is rooted in cell phone contacts rather than Facebook connections or Twitter followers.

The address book feels safe because presumably you are genuinely connected to someone if you have their phone number (except for a few outlier scenarios). Services like Snapchat and WhatsApp make users feel safer connecting with one another because you have their phone number. The address book is also a service most people utilize every day. Facebook is likely looking to capitalize on it since this is an additional point of frequent contact for their users.

Several apps have tried to disrupt the contact list space: services like Cobook and Brewster, but haven’t quite nailed it. Social media collects a different kind of address book, but it’s less personal. I think we’re primed to see more apps predicated on/making deeper use of the contact list, and that will become increasingly valuable as we try to connect the world one user at a time.

What do you think? Tweet me @ellenjdasilva to let me know.

The Resurgence of the Contact List: My Take on WhatsApp

6 thoughts on “The Resurgence of the Contact List: My Take on WhatsApp

  1. AaronG says:

    I like your hypothesis.

    How do you think Facebook will use WhatsApp and its address book integration? Do you think Facebook wants to expand its own network to include people who may not be “friends”, yet are close enough to be in my phonebook? Or do you think Facebook wants to eliminate alternative options which work outside of the friend network like WhatsApp?

    1. I like this question because it’s a good thought exercise. While I can’t be certain whether FB will be reductionist in their approach, I think the latter of your two options is more likely. Facebook probably wants to monopolize the “connections” space, bringing your broader network “closer” by making them available on chat.

      But, I think there’s opportunity in the first – getting your phone contacts onto social to make the social products more accessible. Snapchat is making headway on that but it makes social more engaging.

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