The love affair between Google and WhatsApp ended rather abruptly, as Facebook sauntered into the room promising untold riches to the popular messaging service. Facebook and WhatsApp strolled off into the sunset together, leaving Google behind, fuming.
Google's first reaction was to play it cool. What did Google care that Facebook bought WhatsApp? It's not like Google wanted the messaging service for itself or anything. After all, Google's got Hangouts. It certainly doesn't need some young upstart to help generate revenue.
Google denied reports that it had offered to buy WhatsApp, but had been outbid by Facebook. Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai told reporters at MWC 2014 that WhatsApp had actually approached Google, but Google wasn't interested.
"WhatsApp was definitely an exciting product," he said. "We never made an offer to acquire them. Press reports to the contrary are simply untrue."
Google's cavalier response made a lot of people wonder if the company was just trying to save face by pretending that it had never made an offer on WhatsApp. Google's continued references to the deal seem to indicate that there's something more to this story.
Recently, at the Morgan Stanley Tech Conference, analyst Scott Devitt asked Google Chief Business Officer Nikesh Arora how the company was going to drum up more revenue. When Arora asked for suggestions, Devitt casually mentioned the possibility of purchasing a messaging app. Arora's answer was priceless.
"$500 million per employee? Is that a good use of our money?" Arora said. "Are you recommending we buy some Asian messaging service?"
Okay, so clearly hell hath no fury like Google scorned. Arora's answer was a not-so-subtle way of reminding the world that Facebook may have paid too much for WhatsApp. Technically, Facebook only paid $345 million for each of WhatsApp's 55 employees, but Google isn't one to quibble.
Facebook has heard this all before, though, and Mark Zuckerberg doesn't seem too concerned about the $19 billion he forked over for WhatsApp. He even said that he thinks the messaging app is worth more than that.
Arora concluded by saying that Google is more focused on improving the user experience right now than making tons of money.