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WhatsApp was a bargain, NSA spying had benefits

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WhatsApp's bargain $19bn price, the NSA effect, and Snapchat

Speaking of applications, Zuckerberg was also asked about the $19bn that his firm paid for WhatsApp last week. Far from being defensive, Zuckerberg said that $19bn was a bargain for a company that was connecting so many people and that had the potential to reach billions.

"Just by itself it's worth more than $19bn," he opined. "It's hard to make that case today because they have still got little revenue compared to that number, but the reality is that there are very few services that reach a billion people in the world and they're all incredibly valuable.

"I could be wrong: there is a chance that this is the one service that that gets to a billion people and ends up not being that valuable, but I don't think I am. You can look at other messaging apps out there that are already monetizing at a level of $2 to $3 per user with pretty early efforts and that shows that this is going to be a huge business."

The big advantage for WhatsApp in the deal, he said, (besides making its staff very, very rich) is that the firm can use Facebook's resources to concentrate on improving the application while Zuckerberg's crew focus on building its user base.

One of WhatsApp's advantages is that the service doesn't actually store much data and once a message is sent it will be deleted from the company's servers. Zuckerberg said this would be popular with users, and the issue was referenced later when the behoodied one was questioned about the effect of the NSA spying revelations.

'I do feel like a lot of the industry is a lot more aligned'

Zuckerberg described the NSA's data collection practices as "not awesome," and said that the US government "blew it" when it decided to go down the mass surveillance route. He said the intelligence agencies had gone way over the line with no transparency of operations and the whole issue had been badly managed.

But there had been a serious benefit for the industry he said; normally fractious technology rivals had been so angered by the NSA's activities that they had banded together and were cooperating as never before.

"We've had issues historically about working with some of our competitors on policy issues that even help the whole industry, like pushing the internet forward," he said. "But now it is such an important thing, because of how extreme some of the NSA revelations were, that now I do feel like a lot of the industry is a lot more aligned."

Finally, Zuckerberg was questioned over his plans for Snapchat, which turned down a $3bn buyout offer from Facebook last year. He replied with a long pause followed by "no comment," but then said that after making a purchase as large as WhatsApp, it was probably time to stop buying any more firms and concentrate on what you've got. ®

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