WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Instagram backend will merge and add end-to-end encryption
Mark Zuckerberg plans to integrate the infrastructure of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger services that are owned by Facebook. Services will continue to operate as standalone applications, but their basic technical infrastructure will be unified, four people participating in the project told the NY Times .
Thus, the world's largest messaging network with 2.6 billion users will work on a common backend. Perhaps between the three messengers even arrange messaging.
On confidentiality, sources said the project was at an early stage and would be completed by the end of this or early in 2020. To work on the integration of the backend involve thousands of Facebook developers.
In addition to the general backend, Zuckerberg instructed to implement end-to-end encryption in all applications.
In the official comments, Facebook representatives partially confirmed the information on the implementation of robust cryptography and hinted at the integration of platforms. The company's statement said that it is committed to “the best possible messaging experience; people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable, and private ... We work to ensure that our products support end-to-end encryption and are considering ways to make it easier for people to connect with friends and relatives. ”
Combining the infrastructure has a cumulative effect and can increase user involvement in the Facebook ecosystem and reduce the outflow of the audience to competing instant messages such as Telegram. The company will be able to increase its advertising business and add new income-generating services.
If there is a bunch of applications, it will be a sharp reversal of the previous position of Zuckerberg in relation to WhatsApp and Instagram, which were previously independent companies. At the time of the acquisition, Zuckerberg promised WhatsApp and Instagram full autonomy.
Since then, WhatsApp and Instagram have grown a lot, prompting Zuckerberg to change plans, one source said. Now, the founder believes that closer integration of services will benefit the entire “application family” of Facebook in the long run, making them more useful. Mr. Zuckerberg discussed the idea for several months and began to intensively promote it at the end of 2018.
This project has caused controversy among employees. Last fall, Instagram founders Kevin Sistrom and Mike Krieger left the company. It is said that, for similar reasons, the founders of WhatsApp, Jan Kum and Brian Acton, are gone. In December 2018, "dozens of WhatsApp employees entered into an argument with Zuckerberg in internal corporate forums because of the integration plan and during a corporate rally in December," according to four people who were present or knew about the event.
The integration plan raises privacy concerns because services will be able to share user data, the NY Times reported. Currently, only the phone number is needed to register with WhatsApp. In contrast, Facebook and Facebook Messenger require accurate information to identify you. Matching Facebook and Instagram users with their WhatsApp accounts can be taken to bayonets by people who prefer to use each application separately.
"As expected, there is a lot of discussion and debate, because we are starting a long process of finding out all the details of how this will work," - said in a statement to Facebook.
Like Facebook employees, some independent experts also have a negative attitude to the Zuckerberg initiative: this change will be a “terrible result for Internet users,” said Mark Rotenberg, President and CEO of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. He called on the Federal Trade Commission to "act now to protect privacy and maintain competition."
However, it is unlikely that the FTC can do something right now when the plans are not yet officially announced and are at the level of rumors. All participants in internal discussions signed non-disclosure agreements at the time of the employment contract, and the NDA usually has been in place for several years after being fired. That is, the aforementioned founders of WhatsApp and Instagram also have no right to say anything. The only way for them to raise the alarm is to anonymously merge information or documents in the media and hope that the source will not be traced.
In many countries, people rely on one or two basic messaging services. For example, in China, WeChat is virtually a monopoly position. Of course, it helps to roll out global services like paying utility bills or financial p2p transfers in the chat window (in China, you can even pay in stores through an instant messenger). But such centralization simplifies user control.
Unification of the infrastructure of WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger is technically challenging, experts say. Unlike Messenger and Instagram, WhatsApp does not store messages and saves minimal user data. This is the only service that currently uses pass-through encryption by default.