Commentary Local

What’s up with Whatsapp?

Whatsapp logo

TheMole
Written by TheMole

By Dave Avran

October 10, 2017

IT really is no surprise that Malaysia is the global leader for WhatsApp news usage, according to The Digital News Report 2017 by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at Oxford University.

A whopping 51 per cent of news consumers in Malaysia use WhatsApp to find, share or discuss news in a given week. Comparatively, only three per cent of news consumers in the United States use the popular messaging platform.

Brazil and Chile are Malaysia’s closest rivals in WhatsApp news consumption at 46% and 39% respectively.

The report added that the majority of Malaysian news consumers source their news online including via social media platforms (86 per cent), print (45 per cent), TV (54 per cent) and radio (15 per cent).

The top devices used for reading news are smartphones (65 per cent), computers (45 per cent), and tablets (18 per cent).

Malaysia’s growing Internet penetration rate is certainly one of the main reasons why online news portals have become the medium of choice for many for a variety of amusing, complex, opinionated and political news.

WhatsApp is now one of the most popular messaging platforms in the age of the internet, and without a doubt a modern-day success story.

From humble beginnings to widespread adaptation, WhatsApp is the quintessential example of a small tech startup turned wildly successful company.

Given the above, today we’ll take a look at how WhatsApp got their start and how the company’s logo played a role in their success.

Brian Acton and Jan Koum, the founders of WhatsApp, both worked as employees of Yahoo! before leaving and applying for jobs at Facebook where they were turned down.

In 2009, after purchasing a new iPhone, Koum had the vision to see that an entire industry was about to form based around mobile apps.

Looking to capitalize on this up-and-coming industry, Koum began to explore the possibility of creating an app that would let mobile users better interact and engage with their friends, family, and business contacts.

Teaming up with Brian Acton, Koum managed to persuade five associates from Yahoo! to fund the app with USD250,000, and in 2009 WhatsApp was launched. Koum named it to sound like the popular millennial greeting “What’s up?”

It was a bit of a rocky start for WhatsApp, though. After numerous crashes and failures, Koum grew frustrated with the app’s development and reportedly considered giving it up entirely.

It was Acton that encouraged Koum to stick it out “a few more months” each time the duo hit a setback.

Luckily for the both of them, they did indeed stick it out and saw the app through to its eventual success.

By February of 2013, WhatsApp boasted 50 staff members and 200 million users. Shortly thereafter, the app was bought by Facebook for a staggering USD19 billion—a number that stands as the largest acquisition in the world to date.

Today, WhatsApp still logs over 100 million voice calls a day according the company’s blog. With usage numbers like these combined with the app’s historic buyout, there’s no arguing about the huge success of WhatsApp.

But what role did the WhatsApp logo play in the app’s success, and what is the history of this iconic design?

Not a lot is known about the origins of the WhatsApp logo. The design appears to have been around since the launch of the app itself, seeming to suggest that it was designed by Koum and Acton during the initial stages of the app’s development and launch.

We do know that the basic clean and simple design of the WhatsApp logo hasn’t changed over the years, even after the company itself changed hands.

This speaks to the longevity and effectiveness of the design and is a testament to the fact that a logo doesn’t necessarily have to have a long and interesting history in order for it to be serving its purpose just fine.

The WhatsApp logo features a few interesting design elements that are able to clearly communicate the function of the app within a relatively simplistic design.

WhatsApp serves as a platform for both instant messaging and audio/video calls, and the logo needed to effectively communicate those functions. To do this, two separate elements of the design were used.

The first of these elements is a text bubble. Ever since the days of instant messaging started, the text bubble has been the most common way to symbolize a sent or received message.

Even today, most every text message received are displayed in one of these text bubbles.

Text bubbles indicating received messages have a “tail” pointing to the left, while text bubbles indicating sent messages have a tail pointing to the right.

By incorporating a text bubble with a left-pointing tail into their logo, WhatsApp is able to signify that they are a messaging app while also subtly tapping in to the excitement people experience when they see that they have received a message.

To communicate the secondary function of the app (voice and video calls), the designer of the WhatsApp logo placed a telephone handset within the text bubble.

One interesting thing to note is that even though WhatsApp is an app that was obviously designed for modern, mobile phones, the inner part of the app’s logo features the handset part of the older landline phone.

Since the only purpose of a landline phone is to make calls—as opposed to a smartphone which has hundreds of functions—the landline phone handset more effectively communicates the app’s function.

 

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