Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is looking to merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, according to a new report in The New York Times. On the face of it, the move is focused towards building “the best messaging experiences,” by bringing together three of the world’s largest messaging networks, but there’s more to it than what meets the eye. As is with all things Facebook, the move is likely to have global repercussions, both positive and negative, at a time when the social media giant is reeling under pressure over a string of privacy scandals.
“We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.
The planned integration will basically allow users of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger, to chat with one other, and will require Facebook to rebuild the underlying infrastructure of these services for seamless cross-platform interactions. More importantly, it will require Facebook engineers to add end-to-end encryption to Instagram Direct and Messenger. Although WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger are all owned by Facebook, it is only WhatsApp that supports end-to-end encryption for now. End-to-end encryption means only the recipient can read your chats.
“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.”
These are dark times for Facebook, with both its reputation and profits at stake. While a merger of this scale is expected to send a message underscoring Zuckerberg’s unflinching control over Facebook’s sprawling divisions (at a time when major Facebook investors want him out as chairman) while ensuring users it is serious about their privacy (by bringing end-to-end encryption to more of its services), pulling it off won’t be easy. While WhatsApp requires just a mobile number from users, Instagram and Messenger require more personal details, to sign up.
There is no word on how Facebook plans on going about making these changes. Or better still, how it plans to go about selling the idea to users. The report suggests WhatsApp and Instagram will continue to operate as stand-alone services but that's the same thing Zuckerberg had said while acquiring these companies, promising complete autonomy.
Then there is the monetary aspect. There is no word on how and when Facebook plans to start making money out of all this. “A more engaged audience could result in new forms of advertising or other services for which Facebook could charge a fee,” the report adds.
The merger may already be in the works, if the report is anything to go by, “with a goal of completion by the end of this year or early 2020.”