Bummed You Couldn't Afford WhatsApp? Buy This Stuff Instead

An Aircraft Carrier? The Hubble Telescope? American Airlines? Your Pick.

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Credit: NASA/STScI

One of the main talking points of the week goes like this: "Wait, what? $16 billion? Really?"

That dollar amount, of course, refers to what Facebook is paying to acquire WhatsApp. As my colleague Cotton Delo reported, "An additional $3 billion in restricted stock units are being set aside for WhatsApp's 50 employees and will vest over a four-year period," so some news outlets have just been rounding up to the vested figure in reporting a $19 billion price tag for WhatsApp. WhatsTF?

Naturally, there's now a Tumblr titled "Things that are cheaper than whatsapp," which considers relative bargains like the cumulative design, build, launch and maintenance costs of the Hubble Telescope ($10 billion), American Airlines (which has a market cap, as of this writing, of $12.1 billion) and the U.S.S. Ford aircraft carrier ($13 billion). You are invited to submit your own cheaper-than-WhatsApp stuff here.

So what makes WhatsApp worth $16 billion or $19 billion? For starters, it's helped astronomers calculate the size and age of the universe, and has allowed us to witness the formation of planetary sys... -- oh, wait, I'm sorry, that's the Hubble.

Let me just hand the mic over to Ryan Tate at Wired, whose helpful post this morning, titled "How Facebook Will Squeeze $19 Billion Out of WhatsApp," offers some theories, though it starts with a sharp note of skepticism (and, bonus, the words "staggering" and "shocking" in just the first two sentences):

"The $19 billion Facebook just paid to acquire the WhatsApp messaging service is a staggering figure. But it's even more shocking when you consider the many reasons that WhatsApp could be a financial dead end."

Read that here. Then go submit cheaper-than-WhatsApp palaces, galactic exploration projects and more to the Tumblr.

Simon Dumenco is the "Media Guy" columnist for Advertising Age. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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