- Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg laid out plans to integrate the company's Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger platforms to enable private communication directly across platforms. Zuckerberg made the announcement in a blog post, titled "A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking," posted on the social network's blog.
- The company will focus on private and encrypted communications, where users can message smaller groups of friends, according to a New York Times analysis of the news. Users will also be able to delete these communications after a certain time period. Zuckerberg said the privacy-focused platform, focusing on private interactions and encryption, would be built similar to WhatsApp and then incorporate more "private services," including calls, video chat, groups, stories, businesses, commerce and more.
- According to Zuckerberg, Facebook would shift from an open forum to a "digital living room" where discussions can be intimate, ephemeral and secure. Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger have operated separately, and Zuckerberg did not say whether they will now share users' data with one another. He also did not offer a timeline for the change, or explain how it would affect advertising on the platforms.
Reports of Facebook's plans to integrate its messaging platforms surfaced in January, but the newly revealed details confirm the plan and suggest that the company could be redefining how people use the platform to interact and communicate by focusing more on private interactions versus broadcasting messages out to a wide group. The news marks a shift in positioning for Facebook, which has been reportedly lobbying against tougher privacy laws around the world.
Zuckerberg didn’t address how the change could affect advertising revenue, which will be an important part of how the platform moves forward, as the company makes the lion's share of money by serving ads based on the data it collects about users across its suite of platforms. Facebook's growth has already been in a period of deceleration for the past few quarters. Marketers could focus more on chatbots, which could operate more seamlessly across the platforms, even though the format didn't take off on Messenger. Voice is another area where marketers could invest more in the combined messaging platform. However, making user-generated content more private and ephemeral will no doubt make advertising on the platforms more difficult and complicated when it comes to reaching the kind of scale that marketers are used to on Facebook.
The "privacy-focused" shift is part of Facebook's ongoing efforts to improve privacy on the platform, as the company has faced increased scrutiny following the Cambridge Analytica scandal. Facebook is also possibly facing a record-setting fine from the Federal Trade Commission for violating a government agreement to protect users' privacy data. Connecting Instagram, WhatsAPP and Messenger could also bring up more antitrust concerns.
It is unclear if Facebook will be able to change course and be trusted as a "privacy-focused" platform, considering the raft of privacy and data controversies it has faced over the years.
"Facebook has always billed itself as a global connector," president and owner of digital marketing agency Page 1 Solutions Dan Goldstein said in a statement shared with Marketing Dive. "As dubious as Zuckerberg's announcement about pivoting to better privacy and security is, perhaps the biggest challenge will be the technological and branding shift to a social network that facilitates intimate conversations rather than blasts of publicly available information."