Will Google buy WhatsApp in blockbuster $1bn deal?

Google could be on the brink of a $1 billion (£653m) acquisition of WhatsApp, if the latest rumours are to be believed.

According to an "inside source" speaking to Digital Trends, the popular cross-platform messaging app is "playing hardball" with the search giant as it looks to negotiate a blockbuster buy-out fee comparable to the $1 billion Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012.

Google has apparently been in discussions with WhatsApp for over a month, as the Internet titan looks to establish itself in a radically re-imagined messaging space that eschews traditional SMS in favour of unified communication platforms.

To that end, Google is thought to be working on its own messaging system, codenamed Babel, but while there's little doubt that the search behemoth has the resources to develop a platform from scratch, an acquisition could be a prudent if expensive way of entering the messaging sector immediately and securing a competitive advantage.

With a reported 18 billion messages once shared in a single day (31 December, 2012), WhatsApp stands head and shoulders above its rivals in the text-based communications market. Moreover, it has proved itself a platform capable of effectively monetising - it currently operates on a paid-for basis in Hong Kong and is understood to be considering adopting a subscription model for its iOS service.

The cross-platform messenger is no stranger to acquisition rumours. Indeed, Google itself has previously been touted as a potential suitor, and Facebook was also rumoured to be mulling buying WhatsApp. However, now that the social network's next big move has been revealed as the Facebook Home Android UI, it would seem to be Google's bid to lose.

WhatsApp runs across all major mobile operating systems, including iOS, Android, and Windows Phone - the service recently found itself in the headlines when it finally released WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 to complete its lineup.