Mark Zuckerberg wants to unite WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger’s infrastructure. Facebook’s chief executive officer’s decision comes at a time when the social media giant keeps getting mired, week after week, in embarrassing privacy scandals.
The apps will not be merged. All three would still operate as separate apps, but the technical infrastructure of the three will be unified. According to the New York Times, “the move has the potential to redefine how billions of people use the apps to connect with one another while strengthening Facebook’s grip on users.” The merger will, however, also raise some serious questions regarding privacy and security, as well as antitrust concerns.
Together, the three services account for a whopping 2.6 billion users.
The plan is still in its early stages and isn’t expected to be completed until 2020. One positive thing about the move is that Zuckerberg reportedly wants to add end-to-end encryption to all the services. In doing so, however, Zuckerberg would be breaking his promise not to meddle with services that he acquired – Instagram and WhatsApp.
Well, for one, the move is thought to push users to engage more within the company’s ecosystem and ward off user interest in other messaging services, namely from Google and Apple. The company is also hoping to boost its advertising business if people interact more frequently with its apps.
It is not clear how the company will do that. According to the NYT report, “Mr. Zuckerberg does not yet have specific plans for how to profit from integrating the services,” but “a more engaged audience could result in new forms of advertising or other services for which Facebook could charge a fee.”
It must be noted that Facebook has yet to make serious profit from WhatsApp. And while Instagram does produce revenues, that revenue comes from ads and not messaging.
Resistance from within
But not everyone is happy. It has been reported that the move has generated discord among certain Facebook employees and key figures. Instagram and WhatsApp’s founders have already left the company following major disagreements with Zuckerberg over the latter’s direction of their creations. And now it is being reported that number of WhatsApp employees have butted heads with Mr. Zuckerberg over the plan on internal message boards and during a staff meeting that was held in December.
Other questions raised revolve technical aspect of the merger. Namely, that WhatsApp requires a phone number to work, meaning that a user must reveal his true identity, while the other services do not. This, some argue, might alienate users of the latter services.