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Coronavirus outbreak sees WhatsApp calling spike, and this could be a problem for Facebook

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has seen a spike in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger calling, but for Facebook it brings news challenges, especially if the pandemic worsens.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: March 20, 2020 9:10:46 am
Coronavirus WhatsApp calling, coronavirus outbreak, WhatsApp calling coronavirus, Covid 19 updates, Coronavirus updates, Coronavirus latest news, Mark Zuckerberg WhatsApp calling is spiking, especially in Italy, given the coronavirus outbreak. (Image source: Pixabay)

The coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has seen a spike in WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger calling, though this might not be such great news for parent company Facebook. According to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, they are seeing very high levels of calling via WhatsApp in countries which are facing the crisis.

“In terms of stats, we’re seeing very elevated levels of use in Italy and in all countries that have been affected. Calling, right — so in terms of WhatsApp or Messenger for calling is more than double overall what it normally is,” he pointed out in a call with the press.

Typically, WhatsApp calling spikes around New Year’s Eve, according to Zuckerberg, which makes sense given this is the time everyone wants to call their friends and family. For instance this year, WhatsApp revealed that there were 100 billion messages exchanged on New Year’s Eve, and India had 20 billion of these alone, which was a new record of sorts.

In the call, Zuckerberg also talked about how psychiatrists and doctors in Lombardy were using WhatsApp calling to reach out to people and “help them cope with the stress and anxiety of the quarantines.”  But with COVID-19, there is a spike in traffic for both WhatsApp calling and Messenger calling, and while this might sound like good news for Facebook, it is actually not and comes with some worries.

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The reason: Facebook has to make sure this doesn’t crash their servers and they need to prepare for the extra load.  “..we’ re trying to make sure that we can stay in front of because of course right now this isn’t a massive outbreak in the majority of courtiers around the world yet, but it is – if it gets there then we really need to make sure we’re on top of this from an infrastructure perspective to make sure that things don’t melt down, and we can continue to provide the level of service that people need in a time like this,” explained Zuckerberg in the call.

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Right now the outbreak is the worst in Italy, where the death toll has crossed China. But Zuckerberg has a point that as more and more countries come under the impact, there could be a major spike in the usage of its services. Especially in India, where the number of cases is still limited to 167,  if the cases were to rise, one could see the WhatsApp usage go up further, which will put a strain on the company’s servers. The company has close to 400 million users in the market.

One obvious advantage of WhatsApp calling is that it is free, which makes it the preferred mode of calling for many in the country. and even in other impacted countries. Coronavirus cases are also rising in countries across the world and more people will likely end up relying on the free WhatsApp or other app-based calling services. In Spain and Iran there are more than 18,000 cases, Germany has 15,000+, the United States has more than 14,000 cases, France has more than 10,000 cases and the United Kingdom has close to 3,200 cases. These numbers are only expected to rise.

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