• Alise Talley

Facebook launches new chat messenger featuring Instagram


It’s been 8 years since the social media giant, Facebook, expanded its platform and bought out Instagram.


Less than 2 years later, they also acquired the messaging platform WhatsApp.


Now, Facebook is initiating its first steps to merge its messaging system with its subsidiaries by launching Facebook Messenger on Instagram.


What’s the Update?


Instagram’s newest update, which was recently released to a limited group of users, replaced its direct messaging system with Facebook Messenger.


This update comes with new features, including colorful chats, more reaction emojis, swipe to reply, and the ability to message Facebook users.


After the update is installed, the direct messaging airplane icon is replaced with the Facebook Messenger logo on the right hand corner of the screen.


As of now, the update is optional and can be refused.


Facebook’s Big Plan


Zuckerberg announced back in early 2019 that he had plans to combine the messaging systems of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.


Although the apps would be separate platforms, the intent is to unify their structures and add end-to-end encryption on all of the messaging systems.


This is a different approach from when Zuckerberg originally purchased the companies. Initially, Zuckerberg promised he’d give little input and let the networks remain independent.


Zuckerberg's increased involvement in decision making has even led to the original creators of Instagram (Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger) and WhatsApp (Jan Koum and Brian Acton) to leave the companies.


Zuckerberg’s change of heart may be due to the growth in Instagram and WhatsApp’s platform over the years, which have a combination of 2.6 billion users, or the decrease in Facebook users. Regardless, Zuckerberg now wants to profit off the sites.


At this time, there isn’t a definite plan about how he’d go about that. However, it could mean more advertisements and possibly fees in the long run.


Unifying the platforms would also mean Facebook wouldn’t have to compete with Instagram and WhatsApp for users, and instead, they would be competing more directly with other big names, like Google and Apple.


But There are Some Concerns


People are concerned with the integration for several reasons.


Firstly, messaging systems, like WhatsApp, have strong encryptions, and the WhatsApp staff is worried that altering the system will mean users have less privacy. If the underlying systems of the platforms are combined, there will have to be fundamental changes made.


For instance, to sign up for a Facebook account, a person needs to give personal information, such as their name and date of birth.


Comparatively, WhatsApp collects a limited amount of data from users, and to make a WhatsApp account, you only need a phone number.


Users who appreciate the privacy of WhatsApp might be put off by providing more personal data. The concerns are also shared by the executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, Mark Rotenberg, who claimed this would be a “terrible outcome for internet users”.


Lawmakers are another group that disapprove of the integration efforts. Combining the messaging networks has been seen as a violation of antitrust laws.


Combining the messaging systems and limiting users’ choices have led to accusations that Facebook is attempting to monopolize the industry. Some politicians even want to go as far as to break up the company.


The last problem that arises is the integration of end-to-end encryption on all the sites. Whereas Facebook does not yet have end-to-end encryption, that is WhatsApp’s default system.


During the last Brazilian election, the use of strong encryption proved to be a flaw. WhatsApp had a difficult time monitoring disinformation that was spread through the app.


WhatsApp has since taken efforts to prevent similar actions in the future, but people are worried adding stronger encryption in Facebook would exacerbate the problem of disinformation Facebook is already riddled with.


With Facebook’s new update, it is clear that they are willing to follow through with their merger plans. Is this the first step to Facebook radically changing how users interact with each other on their platforms?


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