Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed plans to merge WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger — but says it probably won’t happen until 2020 at the earliest.
In a fourth-quarter earnings call this week, Zuckerberg also explained the reasons behind the plan, such as increased security with end-to-end encryption. Many questions still remain unanswered, however.
When rumors regarding the merger first surfaced last week, the big question on everybody’s minds — after all the privacy concerns — was, “how would this even work?”
Most of us use WhatsApp, Instagram, and Messenger to some degree, but for entirely different things. The idea of pulling them all together into one messaging platform doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the average user.
But Zuckerberg sees at least one advantage to it.
End-to-end encryption for all
“The first reason that I’m excited about this is moving more people to end-to-end encryption by default in more of our products,” Zuckerberg told investors during Facebook’s quarterly earnings call on Wednesday. “People really like this in WhatsApp.”
WhatsApp followed Apple’s lead and introduced end-to-end encryption for its 1.5 billion users in April 2016. But almost three years on, the same protection isn’t enabled by default in Messenger, or available at all in Instagram.
By extending encryption across all three platforms, or merging them all into one encrypted platform, Facebook would potentially be giving up its ability to access or investigate any of the messages sent across all of its platforms.
That would be a big move for a company that continues to make headlines with its shady data collection techniques.
A simpler experience
The other big advantage to merging the three platforms, Zuckerberg says, is a simpler experience. Rather than having to juggle three different services, there would only be one.
This would be particularly beneficial in countries where WhatsApp is dominant, Zuckerberg notes. When shopping on the Facebook Marketplace, for instance, users might be able to communicate over WhatsApp rather than being forced to use Messenger.
It’s still not clear how Facebook plans to bring all three platforms together — or whether regulators would even allow it. “We’re really early in thinking through this,” Zuckerberg admitted. “There’s a lot more we need to figure our before we finalize the plan.”