According to a new report from The New York Times, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is pushing for a plan to create new backend integrations for the company's Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp applications.
To be clear, Facebook isn't going to take these services and merge them under a new single one. They'll all continue to operate as standalone apps on your phone, but technical changes behind the scenes will be made so that they can more seamlessly work with one another.
Per the report:
The move, described by four people involved in the effort, requires thousands of Facebook employees to reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger function at their most basic levels. While all three services will continue operating as stand-alone apps, their underlying messaging infrastructure will be unified, the people said. Facebook is still in the early stages of the work and plans to complete it by the end of this year or in early 2020, they said.
One of the biggest benefits to come out of this integration will be end-to-end encryption across the three apps. Once this is in place:
A Facebook user could send an encrypted message to someone who has only a WhatsApp account, for example. Currently, that isn't possible because the apps are separate.
The project is one that comes with not only a lot of technical challenges, but also major privacy concerns. WhatsApp users sign up for the app using just a phone number, but if you use Facebook Messenger, you're asked to provide your full name, email address, and more. WhatsApp also doesn't store user data in its messages, but Messenger and Instagram do.
There are a lot of roadblocks that obviously need to be tackled with a move like this, so it'll be fascinating to see what sort of progress is made over the coming months.