(BBC News) Facebook has bought messaging app WhatsApp for $16bn (£9.6bn), with an additional $3bn given to WhatsApp’s founders and employees.
It is the social networking giant’s biggest acquisition to date.
WhatsApp has over 450 million monthly users and is popular with people looking to avoid text messaging charges.
In a statement, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg described WhatsApp’s services as “incredibly valuable”.
WhatsApp allows users to send messages over internet connections, avoiding text messaging fees. The company claims it is currently registering one million new users a day.
On a conference call to discuss the deal, WhatsApp founder Jan Koum says he plans to operate the firm “independently and autonomously”. He will also become a member of Facebook’s board of directors.
“We’re excited and honoured to partner with Mark and Facebook as we continue to bring our product to more people around the world,” Mr Koum said in a statement.
Mr Zuckerberg said the prospect of a deal was first floated just 11 days ago.
The Facebook founder said he believed WhatsApp was on track to have a billion users, but insisted he had no plans to place advertising on WhatsApp’s interface, saying he did not think ads were the best way to make money from messaging systems.
Shares in Facebook dropped 5% in after hours trading before recovering slightly.
Prior to this acquisition, Facebook’s biggest buy had been Instagram for $1bn in 2012.
It had also reportedly offered $3bn to acquire photo messaging service Snapchat.