Viber offers free text messaging, voice calls and video, but it
also has a robust sticker market, Viber games and Public Chats,
which is its version of a social network. Viber, like competitors
WhatsApp, WeChat and even Facebook Messenger, are all racing to add
"We are shaping up to be less of an app and more of a lifestyle
portal," said Mr. Nelson. "When it comes to Viber, there is still a
lot of interest because people don't know too much about it, even
though we've been around for a while."
Essentially, Viber is looking to expand to become more of a
platform, siimilar to its competitors, said Julie Ask, VP and
principal analyst at Forrester.
"It's an arms race to see who gets there faster," Ms. Ask said,
adding that the race to become the biggest platform in the
messaging space is driven by the need to have a user base large
enough to attract developers, who will ultimately add even more
services to the offering. And all of that will attract advertisers.
For an app like Viber to become attractive to developers, Ms. Ask
said it would generally need several hundred million active users,
and Viber is "probably on the brink of that."
Globally, Viber says it has about 600 million unique users,
though the company doesn't break out how active those users are.
Ms. Ask described Viber as "middle of the pack" in terms of the
size of its user base.
According to Forrester, Facebook Messenger is the No. 1
messaging app in the U.S., in terms of the percent of smartphone
owners opening the app at least once per month. Google Hangouts is next,
followed by Snapchat, WhatsApp, Skype, GroupMe and Kik. Viber is
The investment in marketing and desire to grow in the U.S. comes
about a year and a half after Japanese online retailer Rakuten
announced it would buy Viber for $900 million in February 2014. For
now, Viber doesn't have promoted posts or ads, and it's not clear
when the company will add them. "As we develop the product, there
are all sorts of other potential things we can get into," Mr.
Mr. Nelson added that the company has been monetizing through
its sticker market, which is a surprisingly successful venture,
particularly because of the stickers' popularity in Asia. Ms. Ask
said that stickers are a "real source of revenue" for messaging
apps, because once users invest money in stickers -- emoji-like
images unique to each app -- they are unlikely to switch to a
different messaging app and build their sticker collection from
scratch. Still, Ms. Ask said she would not be surprised if Viber
eventually gets into the ad market, given its ownership by