Facebook plans to integrate Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger

25 Jan 2019

Facebook Messenger app. Image: prykhodov/Depositphotos

In a major structural change for the company’s products, Facebook plans to integrate its messaging services on WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

Social media giant Facebook is planning to allow cross-messaging between Instagram, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, according to a report in The New York Times today (25 January).

While each service will remain a standalone app, the company is completely remodelling the infrastructure underneath each product to enable cross-platform messaging.

Integration will be a mammoth task

Once the plan is complete, it would mean that a Facebook Messenger user could communicate directly with someone who only uses WhatsApp, something which is impossible at present. The project, which is reportedly a personal plan from founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is expected to be completed by the end of 2019 or early 2020.

The New York Times reports that the decision was made to keep users from migrating to another messaging service outside of the Facebook remit.

In a statement, Facebook said: “We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.

“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.” The spokesperson for the company added there was a lot of internal discussion and debate around the changes. 

The move to integrate the products in this way may raise concerns about antitrust regulation. The Facebook app portfolio has approximately 2.5bn monthly users and European regulators have previously called the company out for approaching monopoly status.

Culmination of many changes at Facebook

There has been much change among the family of apps in question in the last number of months. Brian Acton, co-founder of WhatsApp told his Twitter followers to delete Facebook last year, while his co-founder, Jan Koum, left the company in May 2018. Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger left the company in September last year amid reports of internal strife.

Questions of data privacy also abound, as many people are concerned with how user information might be shared between the integrated services. WhatsApp users are only required to supply a phone number to use the service, but Facebook asks users to provide their real identities. A unified encryption method will also be a major challenge.

Linking user data at an infrastructural level will likely raise worries with privacy experts, particularly as the company has not had the best of periods when it comes to news about its data practices.

Facebook Messenger app. Image: prykhodov/Depositphotos

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects