For Millions of Immigrants, a Common Language: WhatsApp

I don’t believe my immigrant ancestors had anything like this! However, immigration is a lot different nowadays.

Jan Koum is an immigrant and the founder of a multi-billion dollar company that has more than a billion users. He was a teenager when he and his mother moved to the San Francisco Bay Area in the early 1990s, in part to escape the anti-Semitic tide then sweeping his native Ukraine. His mother worked as a babysitter and swept floors at a grocery store to survive in the new country; when she was found to have cancer, the family lived off her disability payments.

Sad as that story is, it also is typical of the difficult experiences many immigrants have had for centuries. However, there is success in the story also: Mr. Koum founded a company called WhatsApp that lets users send text messages and make phone calls free over the internet. Because it’s free, has a relatively good record on privacy and security, and is popular in so many parts of the world, WhatsApp has since been used by millions of immigrants who, whether by choice or by force, have left their homes for the unknown.

Because WhatsApp has become essentially the primary mode of communication between people back in the motherland — whether your former home is Bangalore, India; São Paulo, Brazil; Johannesburg or Paris — for people who leave, it becomes something like a window into an old life.

The Koum family probably is not worried about finances anymore; Facebook bought WhatsApp for more than $19 billion in 2014.

You might find this story about technology changing the lifestyles of today’s immigrants to be interesting, especially in contrast to what your immigrant went through. For Millions of Immigrants, a Common Language: WhatsApp may be found in the New York Times at:

Note: The New York Times is a paid subscription site. You may be asked for payment. However, the Times normally allows an unpaid reader to access the web site to read up to 10 articles per month at no charge. I suggest you try it.


WhatsApp is more than just an app to help immigrants keep contact with home, as wonderful as that is.
It lets any of us communicate with friends around the world. Earlier this year we were part of a group exchange – we went to India and stayed with families there and later they came here. We use WhatsApp to keep in contact with these wonderful friends. We were even able to do a video call with one couple while they were in the car on the way to their 25th wedding anniversary party.

You can also send pictures, text, video – all for free on both ends!


I’m not understanding how this app is any better or different than, say, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook chat/Messenger, etc? If you have a free internet connection overseas so that you don’t have to use cell phone data, aren’t those services free? I used Google Hangouts to video chat with my hubby in the U.S. when I went to the U.K, and I used the hotel internet. Didn’t cost anything.
Just wondering why this app would have any huge advantage over the other methods I’ve mentioned?


    —> I’m not understanding how this app is any better or different than, say, Skype, Google Hangouts, Facebook chat/Messenger, etc?

    Mostly for the much higher security and the fact that it is used by millions of people worldwide.


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