Facebook is quietly moving forward with a controversial plan to merge the messaging features of its Messenger and Instagram platforms.
US Instagram users over the weekend were met with an onscreen prompt advertising a “new way to message on Instagram,” urging them to merge the photo-sharing app’s messaging platform with Facebook Messenger. The tie-up of the platforms is the latest step in Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to make Facebook harder for regulators to break up, critics say.
Zuckerberg last year announced that the company would unify the messaging infrastructure of the massively popular apps, as well as incorporate end-to-end encryption for all communications. His announcement came as government regulators were beginning to look at the possibility of breaking up the social media giant, which has more than 4 billion users across all of its apps.
The tech titan was recently grilled by Congress on Facebook’s acquisitions, including its $1 billion Instagram purchase in 2012, which some lawmakers have argued amounted to an anti-competitive deal. The Federal Trade Commission is likewise investigating Facebook’s acquisitions of Instagram and WhatsApp.
Zuckerberg said the criticism was unfairly premised on the present-day success of Instagram.
“It was not a guarantee that Instagram was going to succeed. The acquisition has done wildly well, largely because not just of the founders’ talent, but because we invested heavily in building up the infrastructure and promoting it,” he said.
Creating a common thread between the apps also serves as a defense against any potential regulatory breakup of the social network, as progressive groups have been lobbying the Federal Trade Commission to split Facebook into several smaller companies.
Such a move would be more difficult to pull off when all the apps are more directly integrated.
The merger will allow Instagram users to access features that were previously only available in Messenger, such as changing chat bubble colors and reacting to messages with emojis.
Instagram’s messaging icon, a cartoon paper airplane, will be replaced by Messenger’s round chat bubble as part of the crossover effort, according to The Verge.
The messaging integration is expected to be completed this year, and will allow users of any of the Facebook-owned apps to talk to people on the others regardless of whether or not they have an account on the sister platforms.
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