FACEBOOK HAS just announced it is to merge Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp into a cross-platform service.
The move which mixes the best of logical, obvious and hugely surprising, will see the three services become a single tool at the end of what the New York Times reports will be a "long process".
Facebook bought Instagram in 2011 for $1bn and WhatsApp in 2014 for an eye-watering $19bn. Whilst Messenger, the native instant messaging service for Facebook duplicates a lot of the features, each has their own advantages that together could result in a single powerhouse of a service.
WhatsApp, for example uses end-to-end encryption, but lacks a desktop app, which Facebook Messenger has. Instagram has a huge user base that could lure refuseniks into the instant messaging aspect.
But most of all, this move will be an opportunity to unify the services under a Facebook branding, which could prove to be a red line for some users who have tried to "de-Facebookify" their lives, much as Github's purchase by Microsoft sent some hardline developers running for the hills.
At the moment, it appears that all three brandings will remain, but will work on a single back-end (contrary to some early reports) which will allow users to cross post and communicate with users of other services. All three apps will have end-to-end encryption.
Another win may be that the combined ecosystem will become de facto messaging service to the majority of people, threatening iMessaging on Apple devices, and the forthcoming Google Chat service.
It's all a far cry from 10 years ago when all messenger services could easily coexist thanks to the common XMPP standard, but as user demands outstripped the technology, one-by-one they all moved to proprietary systems.
More details on the new service are yet to be announced, but we wouldn't bet on seeing it until 2020, though that's just a bit of Friday speculation on our part. μ
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