Written by: Joe Bartolotta
Facebook recently unveiled that it is beginning to merge its family of apps. About a week ago Facebook introduced Accounts Center. It’s a one-stop hub where users can view and change settings across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
Facebook also just rolled out cross-platform messaging between Instagram and Messenger. This is the first step in its broader plan for a unified messaging system where people can message across all three platforms. Combined, Facebook’s family of apps represents a total of 2.5 billion users, about one-third of the world’s population.
Surveys have shown that most people don’t know that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp, which has worked in the company’s favor. Both Instagram and WhatsApp once prided themselves on their freedom from Facebook. However in August, the apps started describing themselves as “from Facebook” for the first time.
Confusion about the relationship between Facebook and other apps under its umbrella was “long-term, not a good thing for us,” says Instagram’s VP of product Vishal Shah. He also pointed out that the company’s apps have always benefited from certain logical integrations.
According to Instagram, cross-platform messaging is solving a common user problem. 1 in 3 people surveyed had trouble remembering which messaging platform they had a conversation on. Of course, this solution to a user problem helps Facebook by creating a Mega App between its family of apps.
For now, it’s still possible to opt out of the cross-platform update. There are many reasons why users would want to keep them separate. While there are some clear user benefits with blending these apps together, the risk of a more unified Facebook would make the company even harder to unseat.
The new feature brings to light the extensive data collection operation Facebook has built through its various apps. So even if you maintain different identities between apps, Facebook is aggregating your data behind the scenes. The more that Facebook operates as a unified entity through its family of apps, the harder it becomes for a government to break it up. Ultimately, the harder it is for rivals to chip away at the company’s dominance.