Facebook is currently working towards integrating its chat services -- WhatsApp, Messenger, and photo-sharing app Instagram -- to let their users to message each other across platforms. All of the three apps will support end-to-end encryption, but Facebook is yet to provide a timeline for when this will happen, The New York Times reported late on Friday. "Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's chief executive, plans to integrate the social network's messaging services -- WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger -- asserting his control over the company's sprawling divisions at a time when its business has been battered by scandal," the Times said.
However, the chat and photo-sharing services would continue to operate as stand-alone apps. "Their underlying technical infrastructure will be unified, said four people involved in the effort. That will bring together three of the world's largest messaging networks, which between them have more than 2.6 billion users, allowing people to communicate across the platforms for the first time," the report added.
The move could let the social networking giant tout higher user engagement to advertisers, thus, ramping up its advertising division at a time when growth has slowed down. Facebook has the most users of any other social media platform, and by combining its assets this way, the company could more directly compete with Apple's iMessage and Google's messaging services, according to The Verge.
WhatsApp's End-to-End Encryption to Get Weaker With This Move
WhatsApp's end-to-end encryption -- the hallmark of users' security -- may go for a toss if Facebook integrates the popular mobile messaging platform with not-that-secure Instagram and Messenger. According to a report in The Wired on Saturday, to universally preserve end-to-end encryption poses a whole additional set of critical challenges for Facebook.
WhatsApp chats are currently end-to-end encrypted by default. Facebook Messenger offers the feature if you turn on "Secret Conversations." "Instagram does not currently offer any form of end-to-end encryption for its chats," the report said.
"The big problem I see is that only WhatsApp has default end-to-end encryption. So if the goal is to allow cross-app traffic, and it's not required to be encrypted, then what happens? There are a whole range of outcomes here," Matthew Green, a cryptographer at the Johns Hopkins University, was quoted as saying, as reported by IANS.
WhatsApp co-founder and CEO Jan Koum quit Facebook over a difference of opinion with CEO Mark Zuckerberg when it comes to data privacy and encryption. Koum announced his exit "after clashing with its parent, Facebook, over the popular messaging service's strategy and Facebook's attempts to use its personal data and weaken its encryption".
Brian Acton started WhatsApp with Koum. Facebook acquired the messaging service ago for $19 billion in 2014. Acton quit Facebook in 2017 and Koum left the company last April. "Facebook is still in the early planning stages of homogenising its messaging platforms, a move that could increase the ease and number of secured chats online by a staggering order of magnitude," said The Wired report.