This Might Be the Most Surprising Use of WhatsApp

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 21 2014 5:34 PM

This Might Be the Most Surprising Use of WhatsApp

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Kaila Mullady uses WhatsApp to its fullest.

The Internet has fomented a creative renaissance in hip-hop culture and music. Perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in human beatboxing, which has exploded in popularity thanks largely to YouTube and Facebook: Each platform gives aspiring mouth musicians an instant stage from which to share their ideas and prove to the world that yes, they can make all those sounds with just their mouths.

As a beatboxer I record notes and beat ideas constantly with the Voice Memo app on my iPhone. With iOS7 I can label my tracks and keep my noisy life organized, but I’m only just arriving at the real beatboxing party on mobile: WhatsApp.

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Now with a $19 billion deal putting wind in the app’s sails, the stage may be set for a major shift in how these musicians—and probably many others—communicate and share ideas internationally.

This video shows Kaila Mullady, a top American beatboxer and a contestant in this year’s Beatbox World Championships in Berlin, Germany, utilizing WhatsApp to send ideas for new beats back and forth with two top French beatboxers, Alem and BMG.

If, under Facebook ownership, WhatsApp audio data becomes the basis of new in-app advertising programs, as some articles have speculated, I cannot imagine what types of ads a beatboxer might see the next time she logs in to share a musical idea in the heat of the moment.  Maybe we’ll get ads for the DJ equipment we’re all trying to buy—or recommendations for the latest nasal decongestant.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Ben Mirin is the project coordinator for Slate Custom. He is a producer, field ornithologist, and musician living in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter.

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