Zuckerberg: WhatsApp a 'great fit' for Facebook

Ed Baig and Brett Molina
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks on the opening day of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
  • Facebook and partners are pushing Internet.org intiatives
  • Two-thirds of the worlds%27 population is not connected to the Internet
  • Facebook is collaborating with Ericsson on Innovation Lab to be housed on Facebook campus

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says his company's shocking $16 billion acquisition of messaging service WhatsApp represents a "great fit" for the growing social network.

Zuckerberg made his first public comments on Facebook's deal during a keynote speech on Monday at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

According to terms of the deal, Facebook will pay $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in stock. (An additional $3 billion in restricted stock units is in play.)

Zuckerberg says the two companies' "shared goal to help connect everyone in the world" helped prompt the multibillion-dollar acquisition.

"It's a great company, and it's a great fit for us," he says.

Also attractive to Facebook: WhatsApp's large global base of 450 million monthly users. The mobile messaging service is adding more than 1 million new users each day.

"There are very few services in the world that can reach that level," Zuckerberg says. He stressed WhatsApp's service will not change under Facebook. "The vision is to keep the service exactly the same," he says.

The acquisition of WhatsApp followed reports late last year that the social network offered $3 billion to scoop up messaging app Snapchat, which was turned down. Zuckerberg dismissed any plans to reignite discussions with the company.

"After buying a company for $16 billion, you're probably done for a while," he said.

The comments from Facebook's CEO were part of a broader fireside chat at the Mobile World Congress to help spread the mission of Internet.org, which Facebook and other founding partners Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung launched in August. Internet.org aims to break down the barriers that make Internet access in much of the world so challenging.

Zuckerberg highlighted several initiatives at the conference. For one thing, Facebook commissioned a report by the accounting firm Deloitte to measure the economic and social value of connectivity. Among the key findings:

• Extending Internet access would create more than 140 million new jobs and lift 160 million people out of poverty.

• By giving people access to health care information, child mortality rates could drop by 7% and save the lives of 2.5 million people.

• Around 640 million children would gain access to cost-effective learning tools and resources.

Facebook also announced that it would be collaborating with Ericsson to create an Internet.org Innovation Lab. The Lab will open in the second half of the year and be housed on the Facebook campus in Silicon Valley.

The lab plans to test for multiple networking environments, all in one location, to account for the fact that those who are connected today are on multiple mobile operating systems and tap into the Internet at varying speeds — 2G, 3G, 4G, Wi-Fi.

In a separate initiative, Internet.org is teaming with Unilever in India to determine how Internet access in that country would benefit rural communities. Only 13% of the Indian population is currently connected.

Also announced Monday was SocialEDU, a pilot program in Rwanda that will provide a free online education to students. As part of the program, Facebook is building a free mobile app that is integrated with the world's largest social network. It also is helping to provide engineering support so that the app will function well in a low bandwidth environment. Airtel will be providing educational data gratis for one year, and Nokia is supplying "affordable" cellphones. The Rwandan government is pitching in with various financial incentives and expanding a program to provide free Wi-Fi to campuses.

Zuckerberg clearly had Internet.org in mind when Facebook acquired What'sApp in a $19 billion transaction that was announced last week. WhatsApp's CEO Jan Koum was also scheduled to speak at Mobile World Congress, though the two were not expected to appear on stage together.

Email: ebaig@usatoday.com; Follow @edbaig on Twitter.