Since the story broke about the Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp integration plan, the world exploded in a mixture of shock, apoplexy, and righteous indignation.
Take a DEEP BREATH and CALM DOWN. Let us tell you exactly what the FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration plan is really about, and what it really means for Facebook and all of us…
The FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp Integration Plan Clarified!
What Is Going On?
The New York Times broke the story on 25 January 2019, that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is working to integrate the messaging services that power Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
Essentially, he wants all three platforms to use the same messaging platform or protocol to communicate.
Are The Three Apps Being Merged?
Some reports (looking at your, Forbes and BBC!) have claimed that WhatsApp is merging with Facebook Messenger and Instagram, or that WhatsApp and Instagram will be integrated with Facebook Messenger. That is NOT TRUE.
Facebook is not going to combine all three apps into a single mega-app – the one app to rule them all. WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger will continue to be separate apps.
What Exactly Has Changed?
NOTHING at the moment. This FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2019, or early 2020.
Until the new unified messaging protocol is complete and implemented in all three apps, nothing will change. At the moment, all three apps continue to use their existing messaging protocols.
What We Know About The Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp Integration Plan So Far
Let’s enumerate what we know about the FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration plan :
- All three apps will still function independently
- All three apps will use the same messaging protocol
- The new unified messaging protocol will support end-to-end encryption
Why Does Facebook Want To Do This?
Migrating all three apps to a unified messaging protocol or platform has some real advantages for Facebook :
- far less work is needed to maintain a single platform or set of protocols, than three different platforms or sets of protocols
- it will extend the reach of their three apps, helping to “encourage” users of one app to use the other two apps.
- it will make it easier for them to harvest more information, to create more accurate user profiles.
- it should make it easier to introduce or extend new features into all three apps, e.g. time-limited Stories.
Is This Good Or Bad For Users?
There are some potential advantages for users…
- users of any one of those three apps will be able to communicate with each other, without installing the other apps.
- users of any one of those three apps will be able to share data (photos, videos, files, etc.) with each other, without installing the other apps.
- it will introduce end-to-end encryption to Instagram, which does not yet support it.
- potentially, it could mean end-to-end encryption will be enabled by default for Facebook Messenger (which currently only supports end-to-end encryption if you turn on Secret Conversations).
- it could promote greater accountability and transparency, with a reduction in fake accounts and profiles.
On the other hand, the tighter integration has some serious potential ramifications…
- it will be harder to obfuscate or separate your profile in one app, from your profiles in the other two apps.
- any bug or vulnerability in the unified messaging protocol will affect all three apps.
- any successful attack will cause far greater damage, with far more data lost or stolen.
- it does not address serious privacy concerns – even if end-to-end encryption is enabled by default for all three apps in the new unified messaging protocol, the metadata isn’t.
- it may make it more difficult for users to consider alternative apps or services.
- abusing one app (intentional or otherwise) could get you banned or blocked on all three apps.
How Serious Are These Concerns?
The New York Times reported that Mark Zuckerberg’s “championing” of the FB Messenger + Instagram + WhatsApp integration plan led to “internal strife” over privacy concerns. How bad?
Apparently, it led to the founders of both Instagram (Kevin System and Mike Krieger) and WhatsApp (Jan Koum and Brian Acton) leaving Facebook. Dozens of WhatsApp employees also clashed with Mark Zuckerberg over this integration plan.
But Don’t Panic Just Yet…
There is no need to be one of those headless chickens running around, screaming that the world has ended or is about to end. The WhatsApp Messenger you have come to rely on has not changed, or will change for many more months to come.
The project is still in its infancy. Facebook is internally planning to complete the project by the end of 2019, and probably early 2020. There is still the better part of the year to consider alternative messaging apps out there.
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