The tentacles of Facebook are beginning to look more and more.
A new report from the New York Times says Facebook is integrating all of its messaging platforms (Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp) into the same infrastructure. The services would still be different, but the back-end connections between the three applications would become a master messaging platform.
It would also add end-to-end encryption to all services, something that is already standard in WhatsApp, which would mean greater privacy and security for DM in Instagram and Facebook Messenger.
It was reported that the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is behind the initiative, promoting deeper integration of messaging services both technically and with the operation of the companies. Zuckerberg allegedly promised Instagram and the relative autonomy of WhatsApp when Facebook acquired the services. But more control over Facebook companies and Zuckerberg himself supposedly led to the departure of the original leaders of WhatsApp and Instagram.
Facebook did not deny the report and told the Times that it wants to “build the best messaging experiences we can, and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.” The project is reportedly underway and hopes to complete the integration by 2020.
Facebook has a commercial interest to connect these networks. The popularity of Facebook has declined, especially among younger users, but Instagram is still a much appreciated social network. WhatsApp continues to grow and is a popular messaging application internationally. By joining all the services, Facebook can reach, analyze and announce better to all its audience at once.
— Vindu Goel (@vindugoel) 25 January 2019
But the measure also raises questions about what this means for users. Unlike Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram users are not required to use real names. So, if a WhatsApp user does not have a Facebook account, will their real identity be automatically generated in the Facebook backend? We already know that Facebook essentially maintains user profiles in non-users (called shadow profiles). Does this messaging integration take that capability one step further?
In addition, Facebook’s scrutiny as a monopoly has increased in recent months; There has been an increase in calls to “break up Facebook“. It is not clear how technically making all Facebook companies become a single messenger would affect that debate. But it could be added to the argument that Facebook runs an integrated product, not that it has monopoly control over different competitors.
The initiative supposedly provoked a violent reaction, especially in WhatsApp. The employees are not sure what is behind the insistence of Mark Zuckerberg on the project. But apparently, the engineers are giving this a thumbs down.