Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg defends $19bn purchase of WhatsApp and outlines mission for connecting world to internet
During his Keynote address at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this evening, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg defended its $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp, and outlined their “shared vision” of connecting the world to the internet.
"With WhatsApp it's about the strategic value of what we can do together. I think by itself it's worth $19bn even if it doesn't have the revenue to show for it - but it has the reach. I could be wrong – this could be the one service that gets to one billion people and ends up not being that valuable – but I don’t think I’m wrong," he said.
He echoed WhatsApp founder and CEO Jan Koum’s comments earlier at the conference, reinforcing the fact that the free messaging service will continue to run independently and will not be changed for commercial purposes.
However, he outlined the "shared vision" the two founders have, which is to connect the world to the internet. "Around 70 per cent of people use WhatsApp every day and it's well on its way to reaching more than one billion people - and there are few services that could reach that journey. We are the right fit," he said
"I am not talking about getting a seventh of the population online I'm talking about connecting the whole world to the internet," he said.
Facebook has spent the last year working with select partners to trial its Internet.org project.
The aim of the project is to help connect the billions of people who are not connected to the internet to access basic services, either because they believe they can't afford to be or don't understand why they should be, according to Zuckerberg.
"When you dial 911 in the US you get a basic set of emergency services. I want to create a single dial tone for the internet," he said.
He admitted that the project would likely lose money on Internet.org for "quite a while", but added that in future he believes they can make it profitable.
"At the moment the kind of people who are on Facebook are already wealthy, whereas the ad markets in these other [emerging] areas don't really exist yet in a way that can help us break even. But I believe in this goal of getting the world connected....in time I am confident we can make it profitable," he added.
When asked by keynote interviewer and writer David Kirkpatrick whether the Snowden security scandal had angered him given it has damaged consumer trust in general in the use of personal data, Zuckerberg said: "It's not awesome."
However, he added the incident has united the industry in ways not previously possible. "There are real issues for companies – trust is such a huge thing when it comes to sharing personal information."
"The issues with the NSA have got the industry working together better than ever before. In the past we have had issues where we have been competitive on policy issues that would actually benefit the greater industry – but now I feel a lot more of the industry is aligned," he said.