How can an announcement that sounds so logical on the face of it create so much apprehension?
The short answer is because Facebook is the company making it.
Yes, that merry band of geeks who’ve turned the tug of war with you over control of your data into an art form has decided to integrate those messaging apps under their control:
- Facebook Messenger,
- Instagram, and
- What’s App
What could to wrong, right?
Mark Zuckerberg’s plan is to bring together users of all three apps in a single network, database, and community. He claims this will introduce new features, but it’s also got the potential to summon even more anti-competitive challenges, privacy troubles, and social conflicts.
Incredibly, this announcement comes in the wake of yet another instance of what Facebook ops euphemistically call FF-minor, as in Friendly Fraud involving kids:
The irony here is the notion that one objective of the messaging integration is Facebook’s attempt to lure Millennials, Gen Zs, and — as indicated by the report — even the very young back to its flagship platform.
Those demographic groups have left in droves in favor of …
- Instagram, where a strong contingent of online-savvy entrepreneurs thrives, and
- What’s App, where data is thoroughly encrypted.
Now that the founders of those two platforms have left Facebook, it’s almost as if he’s returned the company motto to its roots and added a boost.
All this is why the merging of Facebook-owned messenger services has been met with a significant dose of skepticism:
One behavioral challenge with this move will be unifying user preferences. For example:
- Instagram is currently considered the cutting edge of online culture, while
- What’s App only requires a phone number to open an account.
Facebook is and does neither.
As usual, the key issue here will be privacy concerns.
Zuckerberg intends to implement end-to-end encryption à la What’s App into its other two services, which is a good thing. However, his company’s got a lot more to prove than that if its ever going to rebuild universal trust.
This includes governing bodies like the United States Congress.
Precedent, though, favors Facebook.
Remember the huge outcry when the company introduced NewsFeed in 2006? Eventually, the protests lost steam, and NewsFeed went on to become the centerpiece of its platform today, enhanced by every subsequent algorithm upgrade.
A generation ago, it was Microsoft that kept buying its way into maintaining relevancy. It still does. However it’s learned that subtle integration is much more profitable than messing with its acquisitions’ DNA.
Facebook’s core business is data, and as evidenced by that disgusting FF-minor escapade, its quest is insatiable. In merging its messaging services, the company has a golden opportunity to confirm its alleged honorable intentions and keep its data-gathering transparent.
Hopefully, Zuckerberg & Co won’t blow it.