Facebook is prepared to drop a cool $19 billion in cash and stock to buy Whatsapp, but it won't actually get to until both companies gone through a regulatory rigmarole. Part of that process involves getting the blessing of Europe's antitrust crusaders and according to the Wall Street Journal, the European Commission wants to know just what sort of impact the merger will have on the companies' competitors. Its plan to find out? Sending them, erm, questionnaires. The list of rivals that have been asked for input hasn't been disclosed, but c'mon -- does anyone expect them to say "Oh yeah, the merger's cool, we'll be totally fine"?
Obviously the big question is whether the Commission will give the mashup the go-ahead, but that verdict is a long ways off and there's no telling what sort of responses will help guide that decision. We can hazard a few educated guesses, though. The Journal's Law Blog posits that the constant give-and-take between mobile messaging services could be a big deal -- Facebook counted some 289 million monthly mobile users in Europe in its last earnings report, and that doesn't even account for the hordes of Whatsapp users peppering the continent. That could conceivably drown out the need for competitors like Viber (which Rakuten is buying for a hefty sum), Telegram and Threema, unless they raise their voices in protest. Privacy and data control will reportedly play some part in all this too, something Bloomberg pointed out earlier this year too. Between all of the personal data information you freely offer to Facebook and the contact details Whatsapp has access to, regulators could -- and should -- pay attention how they manage and use all of it.