The Viber Business Model – How Does Viber Make Money?

Executive Summary:

Viber is a multiplatform messaging application that is available on a variety of devices and operating systems.

Viber makes money via fees generated from its business account, subscription fees for international calls (Viber Out), as well as ads shown within the app.

Founded in 2010, Viber has grown to become one of the world’s most downloaded messaging platforms. In 2014, it was acquired by Rakuten for $900 million.

What Is Viber?

Viber is a multiplatform messaging application that is available on a variety of devices and operating systems.

Users can communicate with each other in a variety of ways, either by text message, voice calling, or video conferencing. On top of that, users can either create or use already pre-existing GIFs.

Using Viber Out, users can also call any number in the world, even if it’s not registered on the platform.

Chats can either be organized one-to-one or in groups. Users can, furthermore, join open communities where they can exchange messages with like-minded individuals.

Viber also puts a heavy emphasis on security. For instance, communication is end-to-end encrypted and users have the ability to either delete or create disappearing messages.

Apart from personal usage, businesses can also be part of Viber’s platform. They can use it, for example, to answer customer queries.

Viber is accessible on desktop as well as smartphone and tablet devices (available on Android and iOS). Messages are automatically synced across all your devices.

Who Uses Viber?

Viber has a particularly strong adoption rate within Eastern European countries. For instance, according to data from SimilarWeb, it is the most popular messaging app in Ukraine.

Other countries that have widely adopted Viber include Greece, Poland, and Romania. It is also considered to be the second most popular messaging app in Russia (and only trailing behind WhatsApp).

How Viber Started: Company History

Viber, headquartered in Luxembourg, was founded in 2010 by Israeli entrepreneurs Talmon Marco and Igor Magazinnik.

The two founders met each other during their mandatory military service for Israel’s Defense Forces where both worked as chief information officers.

In the late 1990s, after graduating from, the two founded iMesh, a subscription-based media and file sharing service, which eventually competed against the likes of Napster and LimeWire.

They managed to grow the business to millions of dollars in revenue. iMesh itself was operational until June 2016 when it was shut down due to its inability to compete against Spotify and other streaming giants.

However, both Marco and Magazinnik had already moved on to bigger and better things. Back in the mid-2000s, Marco had moved from Israel to New York.

Unfortunately, his girlfriend at the time was residing in Hong Kong, which led to excessive phone bills. Moreover, existing solutions like Skype were characterized by poor call quality and excessive lags.

His personal frustrations, as it’s often the case, were what led him to commence work on Viber together with Magazinnik. Luckily, both founders had amassed enough income from iMesh to be able to fund the launch of Viber (alongside friends and family who provided some additional funding).

In December 2010, after months of hard work, they finally unveiled Viber to the public. At first, they only introduced an app for the iPhone.

Right from the get-go, they put great emphasis on counter-positioning themselves against the likes of Skype. For instance, Viber allowed you to import all of your phone’s contacts while Skype, which dominated the app store back then, required you to create usernames and didn’t properly sync with your phone. On top of that, the quality of the calls was just leaps and bound ahead while also being light on the phone battery.

Within days of the launch, more than three million people already downloaded the app. By February 2011, Viber had over 10 million users. Weeks later, in March, the company introduced its first major update which enabled users to message each other. Prior to that update, VoIP calls were the only means of communication.

Then, in July, the team finally released an Android app. This allowed Viber to grow from 20 million users to more than 30 million within the span of three months. Further growth was aided by additional updates, including allowing users to send and receive photos as well as sharing their location.

In May 2012, the same month it released apps for Blackberry and the Windows Phone, Viber’s CEO Marco had a small altercation with the police. Using VoIP during a flight had been banned by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) since 2008.

Luckily, this minor setback didn’t stop the company from continuing to grow. Over the course of 2012, the team continued to churn out new features. By September, less than two years after launching, it reached the inaugural mark of 100 million registered users.

In May 2013, it had already managed to double that number (alongside launching applications for both Windows PC and macOS). A month prior, researchers uncovered a major security flaw in the app which allowed hackers to take full control of phones even when they’re protected by screen locks.

The firm’s continuous growth eventually culminated in its acquisition by internet giant Rakuten. In February 2014, the Japanese company paid $900 million to acquire Viber, which had over 300 million registered users at that point.

Ironically enough, just days after the acquisition went through, Facebook announced that it had purchased Viber’s rival WhatsApp for a whopping $19 billion.

Both Viber and WhatsApp, at that point, were global powerhouses that acted as essential means of communication for billions of people. For instance, people affected by the wars in the Middle East used Viber to simply stay in touch with family and friends. The flipside of the coin was that the platform was also allegedly used by terrorist organizations like ISIS to help them organize.

In October 2014, Viber furthermore joined the likes of Google, Facebook, and other tech giants when the Chinese government blocked its service.

Towards the end of 2014, the company announced two major moves that would massively extend the means by which Viber was used. First, it introduced Public Chats, which would allow users to read conversation streams from celebrities and other public personas (essentially a text-based Clubhouse).  

Then, a month later, it introduced a social games platform that allowed users to play various games against each other. To that extent, Viber made its first acquisition by purchasing Nextpeer, a social gaming startup that offers developers an SDK to incorporate social gaming features into their apps, for $9 million.

The acquisition was inspired by WeChat and LINE, two competing messaging platforms which drew a significant portion of their revenue from in-game purchases. Viber, when the acquisition was announced (July 2015), counted over 600 million users.

Another major announcement came in April 2016 when Viber finally introduced end-to-end encryption to its platform. Competitors like Signal had made a name for themselves by being privacy-first and offering secure messaging right from the get-go.

Months later, in November, Viber also introduced Public Accounts for all types of businesses and brands. These accounts would allow companies to directly engage with customers. Yet again, it took inspiration from WeChat and LINE which offered business account options since 2014 and 2015, respectively. With 800 million registered and 266 million monthly active users, Viber was certainly big enough for money companies to consider using it.

In February 2017, Viber announced the appointment of a new CEO. Both Marco and Magazinnik had left Viber in 2015 (to start a ride-hailing platform called Juno), leaving the company without a CEO for over a year. Djamel Agaoua, an executive with decades of experience in advertising, became Marco’s replacement.

His focus was largely put towards reigniting growth as Viber’s user numbers remained flat for the past months. The United States, as an example, became one of the markets where he still saw potential.

One way in which that growth was to be achieved was to copy features that helped other social platforms to become national powerhouses. At the time, Snapchat was one of the most exciting social media apps. Viber certainly took a page out of Snap’s playbook by introducing disappearing texts, photos, and videos right after Agaoua’s appointment.

Simultaneously, Viber also launched in-app shopping features by partnering with Macy’s and Rakuten.com (which was formerly known as Buy.com, which Rakuten had acquired back in 2010). To that extent, Viber made its second acquisition by purchasing Chatter Commerce, the startup that helped Viber build its shopping feature.

The acquisition as well as a slew of new updates and partnerships (such as integrations with Spotify and YouTube) propelled Viber from 891 million users in March to 950 million in September 2017.

The company capped the year off by officially rebranding into Rakuten-Viber and trying to use Viber’s platform to distribute more of Rakuten’s services, and vice versa. For instance, Rakuten was sponsoring FC Barcelona at the time, which led the club to launch a channel on Viber’s platform where it would engage with fans.

In 2018, Viber finally managed to reach one billion registered users. Most of 2018 and 2019 were spent adding new features and partners to the platform. However, it did so at much slower speeds compared to previous years, either indicating that there wasn’t much innovation to be had in the messaging space or that Rakuten didn’t want to commit the necessary resources to a staling and likely loss-making platform.

In June 2020, the company made news again by joining the boycott against Facebook, which refused to ban former President Donald Trump. As such, it removed all integrations with Facebook and its associated companies, including Instagram as well as GIPHY (which Facebook purchased earlier that year).

It doubled down on its political activism by closing down its Minsk office in August 2020, saying that it can’t work in a repressive country. 2020, furthermore, ended up being the first year in which Viber finally was profitable.

At the turn of the new year, Viber received an unexpected boost in user numbers after a public outcry against WhatsApp. The messaging service had made a change to its privacy policy, which prompted millions of people to join competing platforms like Signal, Telegram, and, you guessed it, Viber.  

In 2021, the company shifted its focus back from growth at all costs towards continuing on its profitability path. To that extent, it began introducing more and more services, which would essentially keep users tied to the app.

For instance, in June, Viber announced a partnership with Snapchat which would see the latter new AR Lenses as well as Bitmojis to the messaging platform. Unfortunately, in September, longstanding CEO Agaoua announced his departure from the company. Ofir Eyal, who first joined Viber as Vice President of Product in 2014, became his replacement.

How Does Viber Make Money?

Viber makes money via fees generated from its business account, subscription fees for international calls (Viber Out), as well as ads shown within the app.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these in the section below.

Business Accounts

Viber generates income from fees associated with its business accounts. Dubbed Viber for Business, these accounts allow companies to interact with customers and answer any outstanding queries they have.

Examples include things like customer care, providing delivery updates, offering products and services within the conversation, or promoting new offerings.

Conversations are either managed by a person or through Viber’s own chatbots. These chatbots can even be developed in-house by the brand partner itself.

The fees that a business partner pays are dependent on the number of messages sent. Unfortunately, Viber does not publicly disclose how its fee structure is set up.

In February 2019, TechCrunch published an article that highlighted a controversial change in Viber’s pricing strategy. Going forward, Viber would charge operators $4,500 per month for the ability to send up to 500,000 messages to users (and $6,500 for up to one million messages).

Small startups, in particular, were affected by those changes as they simply couldn’t afford the proposed fees.

However, it can be assumed that the above-mentioned fees roughly stayed the same. In the past, Viber has worked together with brands like Coca-Cola, the WWF, Foodpanda, and others.

International Calls

Another source of revenue for Viber is its Viber Out product, a subscription offering that allows users to make international landline calls to almost anyone.

The subscription plan grants you unlimited calling hours to mobile and landline phones in over 60 countries.

Viber Out starts at $5.99 per month. Alternatively, users can also purchase individual packages if they intend to make just a few calls.

Much like any modern-day subscription, Viber Out can be canceled at any time. For its single packages, Viber grants users a certain amount of credits they can use.

Interestingly enough, compared to many of its major competitors, which include WhatsApp, Signal, or Telegram, Viber is the only one offering such a service.

It, therefore, allows them to attract users that, for example, seek to connect with family members from back home who don’t have a mobile phone.

Ads

Lastly, Viber also makes money from displaying a banner and other types of ads throughout its mobile and desktop apps.

To serve those ads, Viber uses your IP based-location, age, the device used, messaging activity, gender, and a few more data points to display ads. However, users can opt out of allowing Viber to use one’s age and gender for those targeted ads.

Advertisers then set a budget and pay a small fee whenever a user either sees (i.e., impression) or clicks on an ad.

According to The Next Web, Viber currently derives 20 percent of its revenue from ads. The remaining 80 percent is equally split between its business account fees and Viber Out subscription income.

Hi folks, my name is Viktor! By day, I lead a tech team of 10 for an e-commerce startup. At night, I work on expressing my weird thoughts through this blog. And if there's time, I cuddle my cat..