A seemingly strange move at a time when regulators and public opinion are turning sour on the size of big tech, Facebook is at work on a plan to integrate the tech underlying its messaging platforms by the end of 2019 or early 2020, the New York Times reported.
While the move indeed indicates that Facebook’s chief executives are looking to centralize acquired properties that once operated with relative autonomy, the integration also marks a response to growing concerns over user privacy. Under this new technical configuration, all the messaging platforms will be endowed with end-to-end encryption, warding off the possibility that people other than those taking part in conversations will ever read messages sent on the platforms, The Times’ anonymous sources at Facebook said.
As far as advertising is concerned, the news suggests Facebook is looking to tie together the many apps in its ecosystem in the hopes that hugging its secondary properties closer will drive higher engagement across its ring of apps and with its primary property (the big blue app) in particular. Driving engagement from Instagram, for example, will be crucial in the years ahead, as young people show a passion for the visual-first app that has ebbed in recent years for Facebook itself.
Instagram and WhatsApp’s founders departed Facebook in 2018, largely over concerns about CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s increased interest in controlling their operations. The Times reported that the latest plan to integrate Facebook’s messaging properties has sparked widespread discontent in the WhatsApp ranks.
On the policy side, at least one legislator reacted with antitrust concerns.
“This is why there should have been far more scrutiny during Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp, which now clearly seem like horizontal mergers that should have triggered antitrust scrutiny,” wrote Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California, on Twitter.
Joe Zappa is Street Fight’s managing editor.