What first started as a leak has come out as an official statement from Facebook that they’re considering combining Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram messaging into a unified platform.
Mark Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s considering it, but it’s not going to happen this year.
“We’re really early in thinking through this. There’s a lot more we need to figure out before we finalize the plan,” Zuckerberg said.
Phew. Let’s take a step back, shall we?
Is integrating Messenger, Whatsapp, and Instagram a good idea?
From a business standpoint, of course it is. Facebook owns Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Each of these applications have large install bases, so combining them would mean people have even more access to content.
This is particularly important in countries where WhatsApp is the dominant messaging app, for example, meaning people won’t have to download new applications to communicate with people who don’t use the same platform.
These platforms fill different roles for people who have them all installed on their phones. For instance, many people use Messenger for conversations with friends and sharing links on Facebook. Instagram is used to engage with stories as well as image and video posts by their favorite content creators. And WhatsApp is the most traditional messaging application of the three, predominantly used for family and professional purposes.
Unification would bridge communication gaps between the platforms – for instance, someone who receives their content from Instagram but messages with WhatsApp. It also means users who prefer one app don’t have to leave it in order to contact friends who use another.
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What about privacy?
Mark Zuckerberg has also pointed out that one of the greatest benefits of this integration would be end-to-end encryption. For instance, someone on Instagram could send an encrypted message to a Messenger user. Amidst a number of questions raised about the trustworthiness of Facebook data-mining their users, this comes as a surprise but is an important step forward for Facebook nonetheless.
We asked social media expert Mireille Ryan whether we should be worried. In her opinion users already are.
“People are already not trusting Facebook when it comes to their privacy, due to a number of leaks in the past. If Facebook wants their messenger integration to succeed, they’ll need to bring back trust-building as a priority so people feel comfortable. For many people already, merging these three applications is already seen as a big red flag.”
So far, commentary has been pretty split. Many commenters are applauding the idea of creating channels of communication between the three Facebook-owned apps, whereas a number of people don’t like the idea of mixing these streams – mainly due to privacy concerns.
Here’s what Mireille Ryan of the Social Media Marketing Institute thinks:
“At the end of the day, it’s about the user experience – the user, not the corporation, needs to be at the forefront of every decision.”
Either way, there’s talk from Zuckerberg that the messaging integration won’t be around until 2020 at the earliest, so it’s still a fair way off from becoming a reality.