One of the stories of 2013 has been the rapid rise of messaging apps as an alternative/parallel social network to, well, the big social networks. And one of the most rapidly-rising of them all is WhatsApp, which announced yesterday that it now has 400m monthly active users, up from 300m four months ago. For comparison, Twitter has 233m monthly active users, while many of WhatsApp’s direct rivals only announce their total registered users, rather than active ones. A point the company made in its blog post announcing the 400m milestone: “This isn’t a count of people who just registered for WhatsApp – it’s the number of people who are actively using the service every single month.” The company also stressed that its growth has been organic. “WhatsApp has just 50 employees, and most of us are engineers. We’ve arrived at this point without spending a dollar on targeted ads or big marketing campaigns.” It took the registered-v-actives message further in an interview with All Things Digital too: “We want to steer the conversation to be about active users, not registered users,” said CEO Jan Koum. “We’re a bit fed up and frustrated about people talking about registered users. We think it’s important for us as a leader in the space to speak up and be ethical.”

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