Facebook is planning to integrate its three messaging services, WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, the New York Times reports. The services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps, but their underlying technical infrastructure will be unified, said four people involved in the effort. The three platforms bring together more than 2.6 billion users, who will be able to communicate across the messengers after the integration.
The plan is led by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who previously said the acquired apps would operate independently. The project is in the early stages, with a goal of completion by the end of this year or early 2020. In addition to integrating the code of the apps, Zuckerberg has ordered that the apps all incorporate end-to-end encryption, as WhatsApp already does.
In a statement, Facebook said it wanted to “build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.” It added: “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 report suggested that Zuckerberg’s plan may have led to the departure of Instagram and Whatsapp’s founders last year from Facebook. More recently, dozens of WhatsApp employees clashed with Zuckerberg over the integration plan on internal message boards and during a contentious staff meeting in December, four people who attended or were briefed on the event told the NYT.
In addition to Facebook’s conflicting messages about the independence of Instagram and WhatsApp in the group, there are concerns about the potential privacy issues raised for users once the apps are integrated. Zuckerberg does not yet have specific plans for how to profit from integrating the services, said two of the people involved in the matter. A more engaged audience could result in new forms of advertising or other services for which Facebook could charge a fee, they said.