Sigh, Time To #DeleteWhatsApp
We woke to news that WhatsApp CEO Jan Koum has quit, following the news last year that his other co-founder, Brian Acton, not only went but then joined the #DeleteFacebook movement. Talk about sticking the knife in. But this knife is becoming sharper.
There are only two reasons I use WhatsApp. I don’t use groups. I don’t use video calls. I use it to send picture messages to friends using an app that doesn’t care if they have an iPhone or Android. The other reason is to make very occasional voice calls to friends overseas. The reason they are very occasional is that the voice quality and signal stability are very low. It is my last resort when I don’t want to pay to talk.
Google has never made a proper messaging app for Android that gained traction. Hangouts sort of does the job but is not widely used outside of companies that pay for G Suite. Recently they pulled the plug on Allo, realising that only Google staff used it, perhaps. Duo is even less known and used. The established leader is Skype, but people don’t seem to want to use it to send routine text and picture messages. Only a fool would use MMS. The last time you sent one might be that you have an iPhone and forgot your friend doesn’t, and then you get stung for an unexpected MMS on your phone bill. Ouch.
WhatsApp unites virtually all of my friends around the world, young and old alike. It’s the app your grandparents can use. It’s fabulous. Until it’s not.
The privacy contagion that has trashed Facebook’s stock price has now spread to WhatsApp. Koum’s timing is appalling. It reminds people at the worst possible time that Facebook controls WhatsApp. They have already stuffed ads into Messenger. Is WhatsApp next? Make no mistake, I am leaving the first time I see an ad. SMS might not be as secure but it’s secure enough for me, and it is an open standard, owned by nobody, and apart from sending images it works brilliantly on every single mobile phone ever made. I just Googled Nokia 3310 again. I’m tempted.
Things are changing. Alert to an opportunity, Google is stoking rumours of an upgraded Android messaging app that could let you send messages from your Chrome browser. Lots of other services already offer this. I still prefer a proper hard keyboard, and being able to send messages via my computer is something that Skype cracked years ago.
Look at it this way: if WhatsApp’s founders are out, why aren’t you? You probably don’t have their billions. But what is so wrong in the tent that they both had not only to leave but then, in Brian Acton’s case, start trashing the mothership?
On March 28th, I wrote this piece about leaving Facebook for good. It wasn’t easy, until it was. I realise now that my 14 day cooling off period has gone past without fanfare and I am now permanently off the service. Do we really have to lose WhatsApp too?