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Facebook has made its biggest acquisition yet, paying $19bn (£11.4bn) for messaging service WhatsApp.

Mark Zuckerberg’s social network has bought out the app, which has over 450 million monthly users.  It’s designed to let people send messages over the ‘net and avoid text messaging charges.  It’s popular with The Youth of Today™, or so we’re told.  WhatsApp claims to be registering around a million new users every day.  It charges users $1 a year, though there is a free model available too.

Facebook’s bill consists of $4bn in cash, approximately $12bn worth of Facebook shares, plus $3bn in stock to WhatsApp’s founders and employees, of which there are about 50, at a later date.  It beats out Facebook’s previous record purchase – $1bn for Instagram in 2012 – by a fair margin.

Zuckerberg has said the idea of a deal was first suggested less than two weeks ago.  He added that he believed WhatsApp to be well on the way to a billion users, and added that he has no plans to put advertising on the app’s interface.  WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said in a statement that he intends to run the firm “independently and autonomously”.