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Facebook won’t force WhatsApp and Messenger cross-app chat on you, VP Claims

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Facebook won’t force WhatsApp and Messenger cross-app chat on you, VP Claims
Ivan Mehta
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Ivan Mehta

Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh." Ivan covers Big Tech, India, policy, AI, security, platforms, and apps for TNW. That's one heck of a mixed bag. He likes to say "Bleh."

In 2019, Mark Zuckerberg kicked off the project to merge Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, and WhatsApp. Last year, the company started unifying Instagram and Messenger by allowing you to message contacts across both networks.

But this is just the beginning of the work, and the final aim for the social network is to let you reach your friends across networks from any of the apps. I spoke to Loredana Crisan, VP of Messaging Experience at Facebook, about the company’s vision regarding messaging services in coming years. 

She said that Facebook is taking a “Platform and service” approach for this. Meaning, you could be using any platform of your choice, and yet be able to chat with your friends through underlying services.

The first step of this is to make Instagram DMs look and feel more like Messenger. You might still use the latter to initiate some conversations or check your other inbox, but you don’t always need to use it for all interactions.

Crisan said that Messenger is the social app — powered by Instagram or Facebook account — that powers all feed and sharing interactions. That’s contrasting with WhatsApp, which requires a phone number to create an account and accesses your address book to fetch contacts.

While there’s no direct interaction between Messenger/Instagram DMs and WhatsApp, Crisan said Facebook wants to enable that in the future:

We want to make messenger interoperable with WhatsApp, so that you could send messages back and forth again just like connecting email and different email accounts.

She added that WhatsApp users will have a choice of opting in to decide how they want to interact with social networks (Facebook and Instagram). Earlier this year, WhatsApp rolled out a controversial privacy policy update that paved the way for the Facebook family of apps to exchange certain data with it in the future.

Crisan emphasized that all these features will be wrapped in the security of end-to-end encryption. Currently, only WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption for all interactions on the app. Messenger rolled out a security update for voice and video calls in August.

The Facebook exec said the north star for the company in terms of messaging is to let the person see your message quickly and respond to it, no matter what app they use.

While the Instagram-Messenger merger seems to be going great for the firm, WhatsApp integration will be its trickiest and most controversial challenge. The aforementioned WhatsApp policy change brought a large wave of criticism, and the company had to backtrack on a lot of fronts.

So when it prepares to roll out this feature, it’ll have to inform users in detail about how their data will be used. Otherwise, prepare for chaos.

Loredana Crisan will be speaking at TNW Conference 2021, taking place September 30th and October 1st. They’ll be joined by 150 other experts who will share their latest insights from the world of business and tech.

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