Maksym Yemelyanov - Fotolia
In its earnings report, Facebook said the number of monthly active users was up 14% to 1.59 billion in the fourth quarter.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said the increases translated into nearly 200 million extra people monthly and 148 million extra people daily over the past year.
He also pointed out that WhatsApp was nearing the one billion user mark, which it has now reached, surpassing Facebook Messenger, which is currently at around 800 million users.
Analysts said this is an important milestone for Zuckerberg, who bet that WhatsApp would become one of the most popular messaging apps when he led Facebook’s $19bn acquisition of WhatsApp in February 2014.
Since then, WhatsApp’s 450 million user figure has doubled, but it is not making any money since Facebook scrapped the $0.99 annual fee.
Facebook has also committed to keeping WhatsApp free of advertising, but it plans to start earning money with the app by turning it into a tool for businesses to communicate with customers.
Commenting on reaching the milestone, Zuckerberg said that as well as more than doubling the WhatsApp community, Facebook has added the ability to make long-distance calls.
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“We’ve dropped the subscription fee and made WhatsApp completely free,” he wrote in a blog post. “Next, we’re going to work to connect more people around the world and make it easier to communicate with businesses.
“There are only a few services that connect more than a billion people. This milestone is an important step towards connecting the entire world.”
While celebrating the fact that nearly one in seven people in the world use WhatsApp each month, the WhatsApp team indicated that the ultimate aim is to connect everyone on the planet.
“We’re excited to see how far we’ve come,” they said in a blog post. “But now it’s back to work – because we still have another six billion people to get on WhatsApp, and a long way left to go.”