WhatsApp, the most popular messaging app in the world, announced Wednesday it now has more than 2 billion users globally, particularly outside the United States.
Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, five years after it debuted as a text messaging app for mobile devices that eliminated the cost of SMS messages and offered the ability to send multimedia content for free without restricting the number of recipients. Once it added free-calling features, it dominated VoIP and video calling.
Unlike many other messaging apps, WhatsApp is fully encrypted, with no way to turn it off – a feature that has been criticized by law enforcement and government officials.
CEO Will Cathcart told the Wall Street Journal keeping user communication secure is something the company will continue to fight for despite pressure from law enforcement and government to install back doors. Cathcart said providing back doors is just too dangerous, citing Huawei's ability to access networks on which its equipment is installed. He said the app, however, would provide metadata to law enforcement.
"For all of human history, people have been able to communicate privately with each other," he said in announcing the milestone. "And we don't think that should go away in a modern society."
Cathcart said the app also will continue operating mostly independent of Facebook (FB).
The app announced its user numbers in a blog post, the first such disclosure in two years.
"WhatsApp is secured with end-to-end encryption by default. Strong encryption acts like an unbreakable digital lock that keeps the information you send over WhatsApp secure, helping protect you from hackers and criminals," the blog post said. "Messages are only kept on your phone, and no one in between can read your messages or listen to your calls, not even us."
It added: "We will not compromise on security because that would make people less safe."
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also has said the benefits of encryption outweigh the arguments against it, and the social networking giant was planning to encrypt its other messaging platforms.