Facebook is reportedly planning to further integrate Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The idea is not to merge the properties. Rather, Facebook is interested in allowing cross-platform messaging between its respective platforms, per a report in The New York Times.
A Facebook spokesperson said the company would not comment on any efforts.
No simple tweak, Facebook is completely rebuilding the three platform’s messaging infrastructures, sources tell The Times. Doing so is expected to let Facebook eventually offer end-to-end encryption across its entire network of properties.
The move could also hasten a confrontation between Facebook and regulators around the world, according to Pivotal Research analyst Brian Wieser.
“The idea that they would encrypt everything, paired with the tighter integration of the services, is a ‘thumb in the nose’ to regulators concerned about data sharing, as well as encryption,” Wieser said on Friday.
“It also doubles down on the company’s existing structure, such that if a regulator or region (such as the EC/EU) wanted to break up the company in some form, this makes the stakes much higher for Facebook,” Wieser added.
At least for consumers, some analysts don’t see the change as especially consequential.
“The user experience would only change slightly now you have the ability to message people outside of the app you're currently in,” said Jessica Liu, a senior analyst at Forrester Research. “I’m sure most users won’t notice and won't think twice about it.”
“As it is, you’re already getting Facebook friend suggestions in Instagram, and you’re already getting kicked from FB to Messenger app if you want to talk ‘privately’ to another [Facebook] user," Liu added.
While the implications of the would-be move remain entirely speculative, it is possible that by connecting its properties, Facebook could sell brands new cross-platform advertising opportunities.
For Facebook, such opportunities might be necessary to sustain revenue growth as user growth continues to slow.
Facebook-related properties -- including Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook’s flagship app -- grew by just 1%, from October 2017 to October 2018.
By contrast, industry-wide content consumption grew by about 14%, during the same period, according to an analysis of Nielsen data by Pivotal Research.
Of particular concern, Facebook’s eponymous app -- including Messenger -- saw usage decline by 6% in aggregate, during the period. Worse yet, time spent fell by 10%, year-over-year.By contrast, Snap saw digital consumption increase by 35% during the period, according to Pivotal’s analysis of Nielsen data.