WhatsApp, the messaging service owned by Facebook, has a strong user base of 68.1 million people in its home market of the US, but this figure is dwarfed by its 340 million users in India, which is WhatsApp’s biggest market by far.

This is according to the latest forecast from research firm eMarketer, which also identifies Brazil as WhatsApp’s second-largest market with 99 million people who access their account at least once a month.

Rounding out the top ten in terms of user numbers are Indonesia (59.9m), Mexico (57.2m), Russia (54.1m), Germany (43.9m), Italy (32.9m), Spain (30.5m) and the UK (27.6m).

eMarketer emphasised that its numbers differ from those provided by Facebook because it weeds out fake and duplicate accounts, which WhatsApp recognises is a problem, especially in India and Brazil.

On that basis, Argentina is expected to join India and Brazil as WhatsApp’s top three markets because more than 90% of smartphone users in each country are forecast to use the service this year.

And it doesn’t stop with WhatsApp because four of the top ten countries for WhatsApp user penetration among smartphone users – Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Italy – are also among the top ten countries for Facebook Messenger penetration.

The popularity of Facebook Messenger also explains the relatively low take-up of WhatsApp in the US, which accounts for just 7.7% of the total number of users in the 18 countries that eMarketer studied.

For example, eMarketer said it expects the number of Facebook Messenger users in the US to reach 117.6 million this year, or almost double the number of WhatsApp users.

Elsewhere, eMarketer predicted that the total number of global messaging app users will increase 12.1% in 2019 to reach 2.52 billion people, meaning that 87.1% of smartphone users worldwide will use a mobile messaging app at least once per month.

Intriguingly, beyond the headline penetration forecasts, eMarketer also said it expected WhatsApp status ads to roll out “likely sometime in 2020”, although the research firm provided no further detail beyond saying that this would represent a “major change” for WhatsApp, which has remained ad-free so far.

Sourced from eMarketer; additional content by WARC staff