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Mark Zuckerberg talks WhatsApp, Internet access for all (w/video)

  • Mark Zuckerberg Chairman and CEO of Facebook speaks during a conference at the Mobile World Congress, the world's largest mobile phone trade show in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

NEW YORK — Mark Zuckerberg, known for his outsized ambitions for Facebook, is applying a similar long-term vision to bringing the Internet to the billons of people around the world who don't already have access.

The 29-year-old CEO of Facebook Inc. discussed long-term plans for a world in which everyone is able to get online during an on-stage interview at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain on Monday.

It was Zuckerberg's most high-profile appearance yet at the world's largest mobile trade show, signaling Facebook's growing influence in mobile communications. The company's mobile footprint has only expanded with its decision to buy WhatsApp, the wildly popular smartphone messaging service, in a surprise deal announced last Wednesday.

While Zuckerberg spent most of his time discussing Internet.org, the ambitious project that aims to get the world online, he couldn't skirt questions about Facebook's decision to pay a staggering $19 billion for WhatsApp.

"WhatsApp is a great company and a great fit for us," Zuckerberg said, calling the service the "most engaging" mobile application that has ever existed — and one that's well worth its price.

With 465 million monthly members, the service is growing at a faster pace than Facebook ever has and Zuckerberg believes WhatsApp is on track to reach a billion users. It's because of that potential, and not WhatsApp's current revenue stream, that Zuckerberg thinks WhatsApp is worth more than $19 billion. In comparison, Twitter Inc. which has 241 million users, is worth roughly $32 billion, based on its stock price Monday.

Even so, Facebook investors shouldn't expect a windfall from WhatsApp any time soon. Zuckerberg said the acquisition will allow the startup to focus on growing its user base — and not on making money — over the next five years or so.

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