Why it matters: WhatsApp is one of the hottest mobile apps on the planet yet surprisingly enough, its popularity may actually be understated due to the prevalence of third-party clones that are quite popular around the globe.

As Quartz recently highlighted, that’s because oodles of people are also using third-party versions of the app. These WhatsApp mods, as they’re called, can be downloaded outside of official app stores or shared between devices meaning they aren’t represented on most official download lists.

Why skirt the official (safe) version of WhatsApp and gamble with something that has been tinkered with?

Bryan Pon, co-founder of analytics and insight firm Caribou Data, said the draw for a lot of people is the fact that modded apps are a lot more capable than the standard WhatsApp. One popular mod in use across major African markets, GB WhatsApp, lets users restore deleted message, send and receive larger media files and operate multiple accounts.

Despite using a third-party app, users can still communicate with those who prefer the official version of WhatsApp.

In three of Africa’s largest mobile Internet markets, GB WhatsApp ranks second in popularity only behind the official version of WhatsApp. That makes it even more popular than the official Facebook app (Facebook owns WhatsApp).

Regardless of the popularity of modded versions, it is unlikely that WhatsApp will significantly tweak its official offering to mirror the features found in alternatives. “WhatsApp has always been about trying to be a streamlined app—just trying to be as simple and as secure as possible,” Pon noted.

Masthead credit: Spiral wave by ngirl.