One messaging platform to rule them all
Facebook owns a number of the world's most valuable and heavily used messaging services. Messenger, WhatsApp and arguably Instagram's Direct Messaging product are incredibly valuable properties that reach more than two billion people all-in.
For years I pondered why Facebook didn't unify them all under a single product that let you message anyone across any of these products. I had assumed that Facebook wouldn't ever try to merge them, given it would likely outrage users on WhatsApp, or attract antitrust investigations into a messaging monopoly.
I was wrong, and it appears Zuckerberg is all-in on getting those platforms under one umbrella in 2019. As Facebook usage has moved toward private groups and friend-based sharing, the company is looking to start with unifying the backends of each platform:
The plan — which is in the early stages, with a goal of completion by the end of this year or early 2020 — requires thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels, said the people involved in the effort, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the matter is confidential.
Right now, the plan is to allow each app to operate independently, but the unification is a clear move toward two future changes: programmatic advertising that works across Messenger to WhatsApp, and an eventual messaging product that makes it simple to message people across Facebook's platform from one place.
This is both an ecosystem play and a revenue-based one. Allowing simple cross-tool messaging would keep users in Facebook's ecosystem regardless of the product they use, and better still, give it a play that would rival iMessage in its reach. It would also mean advertising could follow you wherever you are.
Facebook supposedly wants the product to be "end-to-end encrypted" but I question what the report really means by that. I would assume it simply means it uses encryption in transit, so eavesdroppers can't read messages but Facebook can, because Zuckerberg has long been frustrated by the inability to use WhatsApp for advertising due to its encryption.
The reporting on this reads as skeptical that it'll happen, but it also seems like it's inevitable. What will be incredibly telling is how antitrust regulators react to the news: it's difficult to imagine European governments, which are already frustrated by the company's potential monopoly, taking this without prodding the company further.
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This surprises me, because actually reporting a GDPR violation is not only convoluted, it's fragmented as hell: you must do it via your own member state (for me, the Netherlands) and even then, it can be incredibly confusing.
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I'll write more about this next week, but no surprises here as Intel goes through turmoil with a new CEO, a new direction, and struggles to get back on track. It may, however, turn around if it can start delivering on that wild new roadmap it hinted at late last year.
Good read: why Jack Dorsey's media tour is mostly PR rubbish