Facebook is planning to merge Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp by letting users message one another across all the services, according to the New York Times.
The shock decision would mean that all of Facebook’s sprawling social media properties would be integrated for the first time.
Each of the services would remain as standalone apps, but Facebook would create a new way for users to communicate with others across the apps.
The company is still in the early stages of the work and plans to complete it by the end of this year or in early 2020, the report said.
After the changes, a Facebook user, for instance, will be able send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, according to a Daily Mail report.
End-to-end encryption protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in the conversation.
Thousands of Facebook employees will likely be working on the effort, as it requires them to reconfigure how the apps ‘function at their most basic levels,’ according to the Times.
Facebook expects it to be a ‘long process,’ however.
‘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,’ a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC.
‘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.’
The move is being widely viewed as a way for the company to ensure that users are tapped into the Facebook ecosystem, which includes the main Facebook app, its Messenger chat service, photo-sharing app Instagram and the encrypted messaging app WhatsApp.
It may also help Facebook find more ways to drum up advertising revenue, the Times noted.
Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, then WhatsApp for $19 billion in 2014.
Zuckerberg long maintained that he aimed to keep the services separate, but now believes that integrating the chat services will benefit the entire ‘family of apps,’ according to the Times.
The move has reportedly angered some employees inside the company, with several staffers threatening to the leave the company as a result of the app integration.
Many have speculated whether the app integration, which Zuckerberg reportedly began floating at the end of last year, may have been to blame for the Instagram and WhatsApp founders’ exodus.
WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum quit the company in April 2018, while co-founder Brian Acton left in 2017.
Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger announced their resignation in September 2018 to explore their ‘curiosity and creativity,’ however separate reports suggested the pair had clashed with Zuckerberg over the future direction of Instagram.
The merger is also likely to raise privacy concerns for some users who preferred to keep their activity on one app separate from the others.
Facebook has had a tumultuous year as it dealt with the fallout from its many privacy scandals.
Last March, Facebook revealed that some 87 million users’ data had been harvested and shared with Trump-affiliated campaign research firm Cambridge Analytica.
Then, in September, it suffered its ‘worst data breach ever’ as hackers stole the digital login codes of approximately 50 million users.
It has also faced scrutiny around the spread of disinformation on its platform.
SOURCE: Daily Mail