That was in 2012.
Ha! Now most investors consider that deal a bargain, as the younger generation continues to shift off of the Facebook platform and onto Instagram. So perhaps in 2016, everyone will think WhatsApp was a steal too.
Second, Instagram had no advertising and no real way to monetize when Facebook took over. That all changed, as the platform is now driving cash into Facebook's hands.
It may also help comfort investors' worries that Google (GOOG - Get Report) was also reportedly looking to buy WhatsApp. In other words, Facebook wasn't the only one willing to pony up billions of dollars for the company. (Instead, perhaps it should center its M&A efforts on Tesla Motors (TSLA) if it's going to spend that kind of cash).
The real problem I think investors had with this deal was simply the size. That was my problem with it. I thought, How could they spend this much money on a company like this?! It wasn't all that long ago that investors scoffed at the idea of Facebook trying to buy out Snapchat for what's now being viewed as a lousy $3 billion. Now $19 billion? I can see where the hesitation came from.
(For what it's worth, I'd rather see a $19 billion deal for WhatsApp that a $3 billion -- or any billion dollar -- deal for Snapchat).
As I researched it, I found that WhatsApp was a lot bigger than I had previously thought. It should also help that the company charges a $1 annual fee to its users after the first year. Not huge, but at least it's something. It equates to a few hundred million dollars per year.
If Facebook didn't buy it, someone else would have. And Facebook won't be cool forever. So it has to make acquisitions like this to stay relevant and maintain its growth rate. Plus, I think we owe Zuck the benefit of the doubt when it comes to snapping up these companies after he made the Instagram deal. It sort of proves he's got a handle on this whole social media thing.
Perhaps the move will blow up in Facebook's face, but for now, the market is giving it a thumbs up "like."
At the time of publication, the author was long FB, but held no positions in any of the other stocks mentioned.
This article represents the opinion of a contributor and not necessarily that of TheStreet or its editorial staff.
-- Written by Bret Kenwell in Petoskey, Mich.