If living in Spain has taught me one thing these last eighteen months, it’s that sometimes things take a while to catch on over here in good ol’ Europe (that and MAN I love churros con chocolate during the chilly holiday season.) At least as far as tech that has already launched and thrived or died out in the States goes. So, I suppose it should come as no surprise that messaging apps are now all the rage over here and one in particular, called WhatsApp. It’s almost too cute, right?
You may remember the explosion of the messaging app back at SXSW 2011, I think it was. No? Come on! Ashton Kutcher was there! I myself was getting ready to launch a messaging app client at the time and was totally bummed out by the veritable barrage of similar apps that burst from the scene at the same time. Ugh, talk about your PR nightmare. We held our own for a good while, but in the end GroupMe was declared the winner when it was acquired by Skype and Beluga was acquired by Facebook (now Facebook Messenger). Anyway, my point is this happened in 2011/12, and then the remaining players slowly began to die out. And then something weird happened. One or two new apps emerged a few years later and caught on a bit. I guess not everyone liked using Skype or FB Messenger for free text messaging, videos and photos, etc. It was really annoying, because I thought, “HEY! My client did this and BETTER. What gives?” I chocked it up as one of those fickle consumer tech flukes, or maybe it was just a timing thing. Who knows?
Fast forward eighteen months ago when I arrive in Mallorca, Spain and EVERYONE is using this cool new app, WhatsApp. “You’ve gotta try it!” they all said. “You can text and share videos and pics for free!” they all said. You can see the attraction for the euro set, where mobile costs are through the friggin’ roof. “Yeah, yeah,” I said. You see, having lived and worked in the Silicon Valley tech scene for ten years before moving out here, I had both been there and done that and stuck my nose up at the idea of downloading another cute little messaging app that was sure to fail just like the others had done. But no. EVERYONE in Spain uses WhatsApp and it’s pretty popular throughout much of Europe, as I understand it. Everyone we know in our little pueblo here is on it; everyone at my little girl’s daycare uses it; our entire family out here swears by it. Right now I’m working with a graphic designer on developing a new ad for a client and how did he send me the proof? On WhatsApp! Well, what do ya know, maybe messaging apps can work, when people you actually know and want to communicate with are on them. Huh.
I have to say, I finally downloaded the app after several months of browbeating from the hubbies’ fam and local friends and I’m sold. I save on text messaging costs using this app instead, I’m in the loop on what’s happening at my little girl’s daycare and even getting to know some of the parents! That’s right, people. I’m being semi-social and making friends! If you knew me, you’d say “Shocker!”
Why has this app succeeded where so many others have failed? I don’t know. Timing? Bigger marketing budgets? To be honest, as far as my knowledge of the Spanish and their culture goes, I’d say the name has a lot to do with it. It’s annoyingly cute and English, which they love to sporadically throw into their daily exchanges along with “that’s so ‘fashion!’” “cool” and so on. It’s all adorable and kudos to WhatsApp. Whatever you guys are doing, it’s working. At least in Spain and other parts of Europe.