Why I deleted WhatsApp

Yesterday, I talked about the fact, that I deleted WhatsApp.

Today, I want to talk about the why.

Some people asked me why I just do not keep WhatsApp closed, because I "force" other people to use Signal or maybe pay money (phone/SMS).

And that's a totally viable question.

My thoughts are like this: I started to use Signal in parallel with WhatsApp. Around 10% of my contacts were in Signal, so I talked to them there.

Many conversations started in Signal, but flowed back to WhatsApp. Sometimes because people were more trained with the UI of WhatsApp. Sometimes because they wanted to share stuff from WhatsApp and the share option showed my WhatsApp account first. Sometime because I was their only contact in Signal and they wanted to have everything in WhatsApp.

As you can see, there are many causes that led to going back to WhatsApp.

There are also bigger issues: When you are a person who wants to start using messengers, you probably choose the platform where your friends are. Currently, WhatsApp has 2B users and Signal 40M users, so that's just 2% of WhatsApp.

If everyone is on platform A, new people will also join platform A, so this is - in practice - a monopoly, because it gets bigger and bigger. In theory, there are other market players, but this is a "chicken or egg"-problem: If there are no existing people on platform B, new people also don't join. And if no new people join platform B, there won't be existing people.

To break out of this loop, I think there is only one solution: don't use the monopoly.

As long as you are available there, other people won't feel the need to join other platforms. I also think I am too "weak" to not use it if it is available to me, especially with all the social pressure that keeps coming in.

But what happens when Signal would become the new monopoly? Should we change our platform again?

That's a good questions, too!

I think the problem with WhatsApp is the fact, that it is a monopoly and is owned by a publicly traded company, Facebook.

Why is this a problem?

Because a publicly traded company has the (primary?) goal of making money. And making money with a free app is probably not so easy, so a lot of moral dilemmas can emerge.

What happens when a feature is good for making money, but bad for the users?

For example, the functionality to export your data and move it to another platform is an awesome feature for users. But it is really bad for making money, because people can easily walk away. If there isn't such a functionality, people maybe want to walk away, but are forced to stay with their current platform, because they don't want to lose their chat content.

What happens when a big financial investor changes their attitude towards the platform?

For example, the investor wants to make more money now and votes for letting the users pay $10 per year? For WhatsApp, this would be a revenue increase of $20 B per year (2B users * $10 / year). I think most people would pay this money, because migrating to another platform, losing all their data and learning a new platform is probably too much.

This is why I think (psychologically) "critical" infrastructure should not by owned be publicly traded companies that are not owned by the country/people.