FACEBOOK founder Mark Zuckerberg said his company's $19bn (€16bn) acquisition of WhatsApp will allow the startup to focus on growing its user base, and not on making money, over the next five years.
The 29-year-old Facebook chief executive said WhatsApp was on track to reach a billion users, up from 465 million. As a result, it was worth more than its eye-catching price-tag, he said.
The giant WhatsApp takeover deal dominated speculation ahead of the speech but Mr Zuckerberg spent most of his time discussing Internet.org, the project of Facebook and a slew of partners to get everyone in the world online.
Meanwhile, WhatsApp said it would add a voice-call service to its application, laying down a fresh challenge to telecom network operators just days after the Facebook deal.
WhatsApp is already the world's biggest mobile messaging service.
Chief Executive Jan Koum said his aim was for WhatsApp users to be able to make calls by the second quarter, just as they can now text messages, in a bid to expand the service's appeal to help it hit a billion users.
"We are driven by the mission that people should be able to stay in touch anywhere and affordably," Mr Koum said at the Mobile World Congress industry fair in Barcelona yesterday.
WhatsApp and competitors like South Korea's KakaoTalk, China's WeChat, and Israel's Viber, have punched a hole in telecom operators' revenue in recent years by offering a free alternative to SMS text messaging.
Adding free calls threatens another plank of telecom operators' revenues, albeit one that has been declining as carriers' tweak tariffs to focus on mobile data instead of calls.