Is Google buying a messaging app?


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The technology rumour mill has been running at full capacity, after a story started that Google was in negotiations to buy the messaging app, Whatsapp, for $1 billion. The rumours have since been denied - making this the second time in four months that the app company has had to deny being in takeover talks with a massive technology company.

So why is everyone so excited by the app?

Hot air

It's looking like this particular rumour is hot air. The story was broken by Digital Trends magazine, who quoted an insider as its source for the scoop. However, shortly afterwards Whatsapp's Head of Business Development spoke to technology blog All Things D and categorically denied being in talks with Google.

Google, meanwhile, told The Register, that "we don't comment on rumours or speculation".

This isn't the first time that there has been speculation about a possible takeover of the company. Facebook was said to be a possible buyer for the app in December last year, forcing Whatsapp to issue another statement denying any takeover activity.

Why Whatsapp?

So why is everyone so convinced this is a takeover target for a big player?

Talk about takeovers ramped up after Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion last year - encouraging speculation that the tech giants may be in the market for smaller apps and services to full the gaps in their offerings.

Whatsapp seems like a prime candidate to be snapped up by someone. It is incredibly popular with users because for a small annual fee it allows you to send messages across a host of different devices for free over Wi-Fi, 3G or 4G. According to Digital Trends it currently sends up to 18 billion messages a day, and is the number one paid app in more than 100 countries.

The appeal of apps like this is that not only do they offer free communication as an alternative to paid-for SMS, but they also combine messaging with social media. If you take something like Facebook, communication is public unless you specify otherwise. On this app, you start with private messaging and can choose to broaden who you share your messages with if you want. This kind of selective sharing is appealing in an age where we are learning the lessons of over-sharing.

Not every tech giant has such an effective messaging service, and while there's every chance they could build their own, there's always the question as to whether it's worth taking the time and resources to build your own - and risking that someone else gets an unassailable position in the market - or simply buying into someone else's success story.

It means there's every chance that this won't be the last we hear from the rumour mill about this particular firm.

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