Guess what? WhatsApp lost $138 million last year

October 29, 2014, 12:19 AM UTC
Courtesy of WhatsApp

For the first time, Facebook disclosed financial information for WhatsApp, the mobile messaging app it acquired earlier this year in a deal now valued at an eye-popping $21.8 billion.

It wasn’t pretty.

WhatsApp made nearly $16 million in revenues during the first half of 2014, but it lost $232 million in the process, most of which came from stock-related expenses. Last year, it had $10.2 million in revenue, but lost another $138 million, also from stock-related expenses.

WhatApp’s huge losses aren’t exactly shocking. The mobile app, which lets people send and receive calls, video and pictures, and text-based messages, is essentially free. The company asks users to pay $1 annually, but forking the money over is voluntary.

What’sApp is growing rapidly. It added 100 million users between June and August 2014 alone, bringing the total number to more than 600 million.

Ex-Yahoo employees Jan Koum and Brian Acton co-founded the business in 2009. In the years since, WhatsApp developed a huge following, particularly in Europe and parts of Asia. “It just effing works,” Acton said during a rare public appearance in June, explaining in semi-profane terms WhatApp’s appeal. “We don’t have a lot of gimmickry. We don’t collect messages or do anything with them. We respect our users.”

While keeping WhatsApp low on “gimmickry” paid off by attracting users, the approach hasn’t done much for its bottom line. What is clear, however, is that Facebook (FB) is banking on WhatsApp to become a profit machine — eventually.

During Facebook’s earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg briefly outlined his five-year vision, which included services like WhatsApp and making them “important businesses in their own right.”