WhatsApp is set to get a major facelift that’ll bring big ramifications for the chat app used by billions. WhatsApp is one of the massively popular apps owned by social networking giant Facebook, alongside the likes of Instagram and Facebook Messenger. And it looks like the Menlo Park-based firm has finally started to lay the groundwork for its planned shake-up of how these iOS and Android programmes operate.
Last year facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg confirmed plans to integrate WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct into a single messaging platform. This would allow for cross-messaging between these apps as well as support for end-to-end encryption between these communications. It would also mean that Facebook would not have to develop the same features – like video calls, dark mode support, and more – for each of its separate messaging apps. Instead, it could design the feature once and roll it out to all three services at the touch of a button.
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Such a move would also dramatically expand the amount of people that any single Instagram, WhatsApp or Facebook user could message. For instance, you could use WhatsApp to drop a line to a friend who only holds an Instagram account, or a distant family member who doesn’t have WhatsApp – but uses Facebook all the time. This also means you won’t have to change apps.
While these plans seemed like a distant dream when they were first reported in 2019, it looks like things are stepping up a gear in 2020. According to a recent article by The Verge, Facebook has already tentatively started this integration process last week – between Instagram and Messenger at least.
The blog reported that last Friday an update screen started to appear for some Instagram users in the US. This message promoted ‘a New Way to Message on Instagram’ with a list of new features including “chat with friends who use Facebook”. Once the update is installed the typical DM icon in the top right corner of the Instagram app is replaced with the Facebook Messenger.
However, The Verge reported that – at least for the time being – Instagram users can’t message their counterparts on Facebook within the photo sharing app. A Facebook spokesperson confirmed that they were testing the new feature set with a small number of people.
They said: “A small set of people were able to update to a new test experience for Instagram messaging. We hope they enjoy the experience and we are looking forward to testing it in other countries so we can keep learning from this.”
It remains to be seen whether Facebook begins similar tests between other apps in the near future.
However, from the looks of it, plans to begin messaging integration between Facebook’s suite of apps are starting to steam ahead. Plans to allow cross-messaging between Facebook Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp were first reported in January 2019. At the time a Facebook spokesperson said: “We want to build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.
“We’re working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks. As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work.”
Whether we’ll see the first signs of Facebook Messenger or Instagram cropping up inside WhatsApp in the coming weeks remains to be seen. But one thing is for sure – it’s definitely on the horizon now.
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