There is no escaping social media when thinking of examples of success stories for my series of lectures on Innovation and Design Management. One of my favourites is the story of WhatsApp, the brainchild of US-based but Ukrainian born Jan Koum and his colleague Brian Acton. Born out of the need to communicate cheaply and easily with his father back in the Ukraine, WhatsApp was developed by Koum as a cross-platform, ‘family-friendly’ messaging app with no passwords, no advertising, and, most remarkably, no data collection.
What a pity, then, that since being bought out by Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, WhatsApp has been forced to relax some of its early principles that made it so attractive to users. There have been changes to allow Facebook access to WhatsApp’s Contacts database, providing vital marketing information to Facebook’s advertisers. Early adopters, understandably, are not happy. But over a billion users worldwide seem to be happy enough, and that no doubt makes Facebook happy – and richer, of course.
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