The New York Times reported on Friday that Facebook is planning on unifying Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp into one, big messaging platform.
The plan is to keep the apps as separate entities but make them rely on a unified technical and software architecture, which would allow users to send messages between the three networks.
“We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private,” a Facebook spokesperson commented the report.
“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks. As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work.”
What to expect?
According to the NYT, this is Mark Zuckerberg’s personal project.
The expected pros for Facebook are many: people spending more time on those services and being more engaged, advertizers being able to reach more users, three-messaging-services-in-one could better compete against competitors’ offerings.
This also might be another step towards an ultimate merger of all the user data collected through the three apps, calculated to get users to start slowly adjusting to the idea.
(There has been a previous instance of data sharing between Facebook and WhatsApp and Facebook ended up getting fined by the European Commission for saying the merging of the two data sets was technically impossible when they courted EC’s approval to take over WhatsApp in 2014.)
People in the information security industry are worried that the “merger” will negatively affect the security and privacy of communications effected via the services.
At the moment, WhatsApp has default end-to-end encryption, Facebook Messenger offers the option but is not on by default, and Instagram offers none.
“This move could be potentially be good or bad for security/privacy. But given recent history and financial motivations of Facebook, I wouldn’t bet my lunch money on ‘good’,” noted cryptographer and Johns Hopkins University professor Matthew Green pointed out. “Now is a great time to start moving important conversations off those services.”
It is unknown for when the unification is planned for, but one thing’s for sure: Facebook is betting that the move won’t upset too many of the 2.6 billion users of its three messaging services.