Great Britain

Facebook merges Messenger chat service with Instagram

Facebook Messenger and Instagram have merged, more than 18 months after the Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced his intention to integrate the two platforms.

Instagram’s old direct messaging service, Instagram Direct, has been replaced by Messenger, allowed users to send chats, photos and videos between the two platforms for the first time.

It is the first step towards a goal announced in March 2019 to merge not only those two platforms, but also to incorporate WhatsApp, and to enable end-to-end encryption for all messages sent between the three apps.

“We’re connecting the Messenger and Instagram experience to bring some of the best Messenger features to Instagram,” Facebook’s Adam Mosseri and Stan Chudnovsky, the heads of Instagram and Messenger respectively, said in a statement. “People on Instagram can decide whether to update immediately to this new experience.”

The executives write: “In our research, four out of five people who use messaging apps in the US say that spending more time connecting with friends and family on these apps is important to them, yet one out of three people sometimes find it difficult to remember where to find a certain conversation thread. With this update, it will be even easier to stay connected without thinking about which app to use to reach your friends and family. “

The integration of the two apps requires specific user consent, to allow for their accounts to be merged, and so Facebook is offering new features as a carrot to encourage take-up. If they accept the update, users will be able to send “selfie stickers”, watch Instagram videos with friends during video calls, and send disappearing messages.

Facebook has been close-lipped about the pace with which the new features will be launched, saying only that they are being rolled out in “a few countries” immediately, that it would not name, and “globally soon”.

There is also no timescale for the most controversial plans announced in Zuckerberg’s March 2019 blogpost: the integration of WhatsApp with Facebook Messenger and Instagram, and the decision to turn on end-to-end encryption for all conversations on the three platforms.

“We are still determining how cross-app communications will work with WhatsApp,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “WhatsApp will continue to remain a separate, end-to-end encrypted app at this time.”

The initial announcement was widely criticised as a perceived attempt to proactively protect Facebook from antitrust enforcement that could have forced to spin off WhatsApp or Instagram into separate companies. But Zuckerberg argued it was a necessary change to the very heart of the company.

“If we do this well, we can create platforms for private sharing that could be even more important to people than the platforms we’ve already built to help people share and connect more openly,” he wrote.

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