Facebook buys WhatsApp in $16b deal

Social media giant Facebook is set to buy cross-platform mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $16 billion, they announced Wednesday. 

In a deal that may rise to $19 billion, Facebook will pay WhatsApp $4 billion in cash and $12 billion in shares. Facebook promises that the app will still stand as an individual product.

Facebook has also promised WhatsApp staff a total of $3 billion if they will remain Facebook employees for at least four years.

Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and chief executive of Facebook, said that "WhatsApp is on a path to connect 1 billion people". "The services that reach that milestone are all incredibly valuable." The app is now bigger than Twitter as well as WeChat, a popular Chinese chat service.

WhatsApp is extremely popular not only in the Netherlands, but around the globe as it is an easy, free messaging service that allows users to share photos, videos and messages via their smartphones.

More than 450 million people use the app every month, the Washington Post. Effectively, Facebook is buying out its competitors, as it bought image sharing service Instagram in 2012 as well for a billion dollars, and Snapchat for around 3 billion dollars.

The deal means that Facebook will be in possession of hundreds of millions of phone numbers, as each WhatsApp user must register their number to use the app.

WhatsApp chief executive, Jan Koum will join Facebook's board of directors.

"We're excited and honored to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world", Koum said.