NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With Facebook (FB - Get Report) WhatsApp messaging service passing the 900-million mark for monthly users, the focus on the communications platform is shifting even more toward how it can make money and justify its $19 billion purchase price.
Gene Munster, who covers Facebook for Piper Jaffray, said he expects Facebook to eventually pair up WhatsApp with its own Messenger service and create a unified business-to-consumer service for messaging that will provide a source of revenue from deals exchanged over the platform.
"Right now, messaging itself is diluted," Munster said. "But the way Facebook envisions it, the message itself will be like a product and they will take a cut of every transaction. Still, it's going to be a long time before they make real money from it."
Facebook board member, and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum revealed the services latest milestone in a post on Facebook late Thursday.
The 900 million monthly average user [MAU] mark comes about five months after WhatsApp surpassed the 800 million threshhold in April.
However, reaching 900 million users doesn't necessarily translate into WhatsApp actually making any money for its parent company.
So far, Facebook has been content with letting WhatsApp focus on user growth since the company wrote out the $19 billion check to acquire WhatsApp in February 2014. At that time, Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg even said it would likely take WhatsApp to reach at least 1 billion monthly active users before his company would be able to monetize the site.
Facebook shares slipped by 1% to $87.26 Friday. The company's shares are up almost 12% since the start of the year.
Technically, WhatsApp does make some money. It currently charges $1 a year for a subscription after the app is downloaded, though it only generated $15 million in revenue during the first half 2014, against a loss of $232.5 million. With 1 billion monthly users now an inevitability, Facebook is expected to begin taking new measures to make WhatsApp begin to pay for itself.
It's obvious that Facebook sees messaging as a critical aspect of the company's revenue growth efforts.
In June, Zuckerberg told Facebook's annual financial analyst meeting that the company's Messenger service hit 700 million monthly users, and Facebook recently began adding partnerships with retail sites such as Zulily (ZU) that let those companies use Messenger as a platform for sending consumers information such as product-shipping data. Last month, Liberty Interactive (LINTA) announced it was acquiring Zulilly for $2.3 billion in cash and stock.
Even though WhatsApp has an enormous amount of users, many in the U.S. are said to still be unfamiliar with the service. The majority of WhatsApp's users are in Europe and countries such as India, and Munster said Facebook will likely begin pushing WhatsApp more in the U.S. now that the service has proven its ability to grow on its own in other markets.
"The [service in the] U.S. is something they want to promote," Munster said. "The momentum is naturally happening. They've been letting it grow virally outside the U.S. and have seen the nature of messaging is that more users connect more users."