The integration, which is reportedly in development and scheduled for release later this year or early next year, would mark a significant change for the three tools, which have a collective 3.8 billion monthly active users. The integration would also, presumably, enables cross posting of Stories, with each of the three also offering a Stories option – you can already cross post your Instagram Story to Messenger, so a further connection with WhatsApp Status would not be a huge leap.
As we have recently seen, Facebook are already integrating Instagram and its main platform, with new tools gradually appearing which connect the two together. Broadening that to WhatsApp makes a lot of sense, and with messaging use on the rise, that could provide a huge amount of new opportunities for digital marketers to connect with a much broader audience, more easily and quickly than ever before.
The implications here are – imagine a single platform that connects you to all of Facebook’s properties – and facilitates cross platform promotion and customer service. There could also be data sharing benefits, though the details on that front are still being worked through. According to TechCrunch, as part of the project, Facebook is also looking to add end to end encryption for Instagram messages, and encryption to Facebook Messenger interactions by default. That would help reassure users that their private conversations will be kept safe, despite the broader cross platform reach, however there is likely more to be ironed out to secure full data integration and utilisation between the apps.
One area that will certainly need ironing out is the differing approaches to privacy on each platform, as this will add complexity to the functional merging, and, reportedly, is what lead to significant tensions between Facebook management and the founders of both WhatsApp and Instagram, which ultimately saw all of them leave Facebook entirely.
But in reality, the merger makes sense. Right now, Facebook has separate development teams working across the three apps – a merger would bring them all together, and would make it far easier to roll out new updates and additions through a unified back end layer. It would also, as others have noted, make it harder for Facebook to be broken up in the event that regulators felt that such a step were necessary. Really, that could be the key motivator here, but the functional implications are also equally relevant.
There is also a question over whether it is to Facebook’s benefit to bring all of its apps under the Facebook banner, with the brand taking a massive hit in recent times due to various privacy scandals, so much so in fact we saw a 66% decline in trust for Facebook.
Given the emphasis on private messages, users are likely more sensitive to the same in this respect. Right now, Instagram and WhatsApp have remained largely unscathed in the various data scandals, with many users unaware that Facebook owns and operates them also. Merging their functionalities would likely heighten that awareness, which could lead to less use – particularly in the case of WhatsApp, which has historically made user privacy a key focus.