Viber is now blocked in Saudi Arabia, Skype and WhatsApp might follow

The free internet messenger and calls service Viber has been shut down in Saudi Arabia as it has failed to comply with local regulations. The Communications and Information Technology Commission in the country has also issued a warning it’ll do the same to other applications and services that don’t comply with the regulations.

Quarts reports that Viber. Skype and WhatsApp have received a warning from the Saudi telecommunications regulator back in March. The shutdown could be a result of a failure of Viber to provide the CITC a local server to monitor user activity.

The report suggests that there might be more than regulations at play here. In addition to the Saudi Arabia’s authoritarian regime’s desire to monitor user activity and keep track of social unrest, telecoms are losing revenue as services like Viber, Skype and WhatsApp are becoming users’ choice for placing international calls and texts.

WhatsApp says Google acquisition rumors are false!

The internet was set ablaze last weekend with rumors that Google’s close to acquiring the WhatsApp team and its popular messaging app. One report claimed that negotiations went on for several weeks, and a deal was finallyWhatsApp-messenger-iphone-5-e1353157543579 reached for $1 billion.

Not so fast. According to a new report, the two companies aren’t even holding talks right now, let alone discussing a buyout. WhatsApp’s business development head Neeraj Arora told AllThingsD last night that the Google acquisition rumors are false…

AllThingsD‘s Liz Gannes reports:

Popular messaging app WhatsApp says it is not in discussions to sell the company to Google. Neeraj Arora, WhatsApp’sbusiness development head, told AllThingsDigital today that the company is not holding sales talks with Google…

…Arora declined to comment further.”

It’s not surprising that the buyout talk was unfounded; WhatsApp has been the subject of similar rumors in the past. In fact, just a few months ago, TechCrunch reported that the company was in high-level talks with Facebook over a potential acquisition.

So what makes WhatsApp so appealing to larger tech firms? How about its enormous user base? As of last month, the service facilitated messaging for over 200 million users on over 700 networks, in more than one hundred countries. That’s pretty impressive.

Ok, but if it’s not selling out to Google or Facebook, what does WhatsApp plan to do? Well according to the company’s CEO, its immediate future includes bringing its subscription model to iOS. They’ll make the app itself free, and charge users $1 per year.

Google is buying WhatsApp for $1 billion?

whatsapp iphone screenshot

WhatsApp, the cross-platform instant messaging application for smartphones, is rumored to be close to negotiating a landmark acquisition deal with Google. Sources reportedly close to the negotiations claim the Internet giant is considering dropping a whopping one billion dollars on the popular service that as of March 2013 had a cool 200 million users, a hundred million ones on Android alone.

The report ties nicely with talk of a new instant messaging brand from Google called Babble, and even more so given Facebook with its new Home UI layer for select Android devices is basically encouraging its one billion users to use its Messenger service right from their Lock screen or from whichever app they happen to be using at any give moment…

DigitalTrends reports that while the deal started four or five weeks ago, “we’ve been told that WhatsApp is ‘playing hardball’ and jockeying for a higher acquisition price, which currently is ‘close to’ $1 billion right now.”

The acquisition might make sense for both parties.

For WhatsApp, Google’s scale and reach would mean rapid adoption, especially on Android devices. More importantly, the software would probably gain video chatting, a feature it’s been conspicuously missing.

WhatsApp’s 200 million users come from more than a hundred countries and across an astounding 750 mobile networks.The number one paid app in more than a hundred countries, WhatsApp on New Years Eve 2012 alone saw a record eighteen billion messages processed in a day.

DigitalTrends lets us in on WhatsApp’s business model, said to pull in about $100 million in revenue:

WhatsApp has a proven monetization scheme. Its yearly but nominal $0.99 subscription fee keeps the service ad-free. Behind the scenes however, WhatsApp also generates revenue through profitable partnerships with international telecommunications companies.

For instance WhatsApp’s monthly local plan in Hong Kong with mobile operator 3 HK costs just $8HK ($1.03 USD) and an international package will run for $48HK ($6.18 USD) per day. And whatever Whatsapp is doing is working: The app has even had a direct hand in declining SMS usage around the world. 

It’s interesting that although Google played its cards well with Android, it somehow has managed to drop the ball when it comes to the mobile instant messaging playground.

The company is now rumored to be consolidating its many instant messaging offerings under the new Babble brand so it could certainly use a standout app such as WhatsApp to drive people away from rival offerings and give them another reason to go Android.

The search giant’s Nikhyl Singhal told GigaOM last June that “we have done an incredibly poor job of servicing our users here.”

WhatsApp is thought to be toying with a subscription model on iOS and has suffered its share or privacy-related hiccups. Google previously acquired some other popular developers who made names for themselves creating popular apps for Apple’s iPhone, iPod, iPad and Mac.

Most notably, it boughtemail client Sparrow last Jul and mobile productivity suite QuickOffice in June 2012. Last September, the company unexpectedly acquired Nik Software, the maker of the popular photo editing software Snapseed.

Viber, another popular IM app, has for some time been in a neck and neck race with WhatsApp over which service gets to become the default cross-platform messaging solution on mobile devices.

But taking advantage of Viber’s feature shortages and slow pace of development, WhatsApp zoomed past its rival, which as of February 26, 2013 had 175 million users.

Viber now boasts 140 million users, growing at 400,000 new users per day! New Features!

Viber 6 730x356 Free messaging and voice calling app Viber now boasts 140m users, growing at 400,000 new users per day

Viber, the mobile messaging and voice calling application that lets iOS,Android and Windows Phone 7 smartphone owners communicate for free over 3G or WiFi, has attracted 140 million users in 193 countries to date (up from 100 million last September and 90 million in July).

The company says it is currently growing with 400,000 new users per day, which means it should hit the 150 million users mark right after the holidays.

For your background: Juniper Research estimates that there will be 1 billion mobile VoIP users by 2017, so there’s still room for Viber to grow, albeit amidst intense rivalry with the likes of Skype, Tango, WhatsApp,eBuddy, KIK and BBM.

To celebrate the milestone, Viber is today releasing a ‘special fun’ version (2.3) of its mobile application for iOS and Android, adding emoticons and stickers to spruce up text and photo messages, as well as a new “Send Location” feature that allows users to share a map of any location.

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In addition, Viber has streamlined the app’s UI, and included a new setting in the Android app that enables users to select their phone’s current ringtone and message tone for Viber calls and messages to boot.

On top of applications for iOS, Windows Phone 7 and Android, Viber also offers apps for BlackBerry, Nokia (S40 / Symbian) and Bada, althought the latter three don’t (yet) include support for the free voice calling feature.

➤ Viber for iOS / Android

Viber 4 Free messaging and voice calling app Viber now boasts 140m users, growing at 400,000 new users per day

Viber Beta lands on Windows Phone, BlackBerry, no voice calling yet

Viber, the free application that allows you to make HD voice calls for free, has now landed on Windows Phone and the BlackBerry OS. Viber arrives on the two operating systems in an early beta version, but that’s already a huge leap towards a full-fledged app. Right now, though, you won’t be able to place calls, and you’re left with text messaging, sharing photos and locations between users.

There’s no word yet on the release date of Viber with voice calling for BB and WP, but the promise is there.
Viber made its debut in late 2010 on the iPhone and at the time it was the only the free VoIP application integrated so deeply into the platform that it ran in the background and you could still take calls or receive messages. It then got an Android version, and now Viber can take pride in a massive 69 million users.
The app works both over 3G and Wi-Fi, and the only charge you’ll see is to your data bill – otherwise calling and texting is free.