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Facebook’s WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram merger isn’t quite what it seems

Facebook is planning to roll the messaging services of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, according to reports.

The New York Times is reporting that the three services messaging programs will be brought together into one unified platform by early 2020, according to several sources close to the matter. It seems Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is planning to bring all of Facebook’s disparate messaging service together using one shared backend.

This isn’t quite as doom and gloom as it may suggest. In fact, for many people there won’t be a large change: all of the apps are planned to remain standalone, but by sharing infrastructure, it appears all of these services will now move to be protected by end to end encryption, which could mean a Facebook user could fire an encrypted message across to an Instagram user or someone who doesn’t even use social media and is reachable only via WhatsApp.

This isn’t a small task, and it will require thousands of staff to rework how the three apps function at their base level, as all were designed independently before Facebook acquired Instagram and WhatsApp, so all have their own unique technical structure.

Related: How To Delete Your Facebook Account

This is another step designed to increase the utility of Facebook after it’s been battered by scandals near-constantly over the last 18 months. Several scandals and privacy concerns have seen scores of users deleting their accounts, but the Zuck seems to be hoping that by turning its portfolio of messaging services into a closed ecosystem they can draw users in and keep them there, with users forgoing services like iMessage or gChat.

However, despite these changes it’s not looking like WhatsApp or Instagram will be going away or even changing in functionality, at least in terms of appearance to the end user. Your apps will remain where you left them.

However, it’s a huge change from Zuckerberg who claimed that WhatsApp and Instagram would remain independant companies with plenty of autonomy from Facebook when they were acquired. It’s worth noting that both WhatsApp and Instagram’s founders have left Facebook in the last year, with WhatsApp founder Jan Koum leaving Facebook in the middle of 2018 after clashes with the board over privacy and encryption policies.

Several sources told the New York Times that the decision was unpopular with WhatsApp employees in particular, with raised tensions as a result of the plans that culminated in a heated staff meeting in December.

This is a developing story, we’ll have more information on it as it develops.

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