Facebook's Whatsapp Purchase Reminds Us Tech Is for the Kids

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If you barely even understand this, you are probably old.
In the span of three months, Facebook, the massive social media giant, offered more than $20 billion (billion with a 'b') for a pair of messaging apps. The first was SnapChat, the photo message sharing app your kids love and you probably know nothing about, which turned down $3 billion from Zuckerberg, Inc. back in November. The second was this week, when Whatsapp, an app that offers an alternative to traditional text messaging, was offered $19 billion by The Book. It wisely accepted.

I'm sure, if you have made it this far, you ware wondering, "Who or what the hell is a Whatsapp? Why is it worth so much? And what idiot turned down $3 billion for an app?" All fair questions, but the very questions themselves are probably a pretty good indicator of your age and, perhaps, your geography.

Let's start with what.

Both apps are designed to send messages. In the case of SnapChat, it allows users to send picture and video messages. The unique feature of SnapChat is that whatever message is sent is automatically erased within a few seconds of being seen by the person who received it.

This has made it a popular way to send provocative images and videos, particularly by kids. SnapChat has largely replaced Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as the social media option of choice for teens.

Whatsapp is more like a replacement for standard text messaging. This might not seem like a big deal for most people, but it can have a significant impact on kids who send so many messages, it bumps up against limits set by providers. It is also beneficial for those who want to send texts but have an iPod or similar device instead of a phone. Finally, it is substantially cheaper for those who want to send text messages from one country to another, especially while traveling.

Now, the why.

First off, technology is primarily built for young people or for business. This is because the average 40 or 50-something isn't terribly interested in the latest phone or gadget. Kids are and businesses have to be. Second, while we tend to see things through the myopic lens of Americans, there are countries around the world where things like SMS messages are difficult or expensive to send. Texting is extraordinarily popular in places like China, which has nearly 10 times as many people as the U.S.


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