You're in constant communication with your friends and family. The only issue? Nobody uses the same app. Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp — you have contacts spanning all three, and the resulting balancing-act to keep in touch can be overwhelming. That's why Facebook — who owns all three apps — is coming out with a way to call and message friends across all three platforms from one place.
Facebook announced the feature at its annual F8 conference on April 30, 2019. Unfortunately, the company didn't give us many details during the event, not even a timeline. All we know is that there's a cross-platform messaging system in the works over at Facebook Inc. In the meantime, we have some questions about how this will all work out.
We know from Facebook's announcement that Messenger users will be able to chat with not only their Facebook friends but also their friends on Instagram and WhatsApp. But will WhatsApp users be able to messages Facebook and Instagram users directly, and will Instagram users be able to message Facebook and WhatsApp users directly?
If you're using Instagram or WhatsApp, a Messenger friend can message you in your app from Messenger, and you can message them right back. However, the question is if you can start a message with them or someone else on Instagram from WhatsApp.
With Facebook's goal of "interoperability," yes is likely the answer to all of these questions.
While it's excellent news that Messenger will soon allow you to chat with Instagram and WhatsApp friends, we don't know yet what that means in terms of account connectivity. Will Messenger let you import contacts from Instagram and WhatsApp, or will you simply need to connect all three accounts and share contacts?
It's safe to assume a good number of people won't mind connecting their Instagram account to their Messenger/Facebook account if these accounts aren't tied already. However, some might prefer to keep their accounts separate, and they might see this move as somewhat contradictory considering Facebook's renewed "interest" in improving privacy and security across its platforms.
There's no word yet on how this will work, so sit tight until more details come out.
Consider this — if you have a friend that you only know through Instagram or WhatsApp, messaging them on Messenger should be simple. You should be able to look them up and shoot them a message without issue. However, what happens if you have friends across all of these apps? How will Messenger help keep things organized, so you aren't confused which platform the message will initially target?
If one of your contacts has a Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp account, are you really going to have to choose which account to send the message to? As discussed in the previous section, Facebook may decide to tie all accounts together with one contact profile, so when you send a message to a contact, you don't have to worry about picking between the three apps — you'd choose your contact, and it would sync with all three of their apps.
In a Business Insider interview with Stan Chudnovsky, the head of Messenger, it sounds like each app will be separated and not under one Messenger account.
Right now, on Android's Messenger app, if it's also used for SMS and MMS texts, there will be an SMS chat icon on the profile picture for texts to distinguish them. In conversations, Facebook chats are in blue while SMS chats are in purple. It's likely to stay that way if Facebook unifies all three online platforms under the Messenger umbrella. If not, you could see Instagram and WhatsApp icons here instead of just SMS icons, there could be a toggle to filter to only one app's contacts, and chats may be colored differently.
It's hard to say what will happen though considering how tight-lipped the project has been over the months.
All three chat apps currently allow for some form of un-sending messages. Facebook recently rolled out a way for you to unsend messages within 10 minutes in Messenger, mirroring a long-standing feature in WhatsApp. Instagram lets you unsend messages at any time, an exciting deviation from the way Facebook handles un-sending in its other apps.
So, how will un-sending work in chats with all three apps? Will Facebook go with the 10-minute limit, or will it honor Instagram's free for all? In that interview mentioned above with Chudnovsky, he stated that none of Messenger's chatting features would appear in Instagram's Direct Messages or WhatsApp chats. At least, not at the start. So it could be that the un-sending of messages will work however it did before for each app, no matter who's on the receiving end.
Facebook wants people to trust them more, which is why they placed a focus on end-to-end encryption in its F8 presentation. Currently, WhatsApp is the only program of the bunch to offer E2E encryption by default. Messenger has encrypted messaging, but you'll need to activate a Secret Conversation for it to work.
Instagram, on the other hand, has no encryption currently. Will Facebook add this functionality to the app so that all three can participate in private messaging? Or will you need to give up this privacy privilege when choosing to chat with an Instagram user in Messenger?
To bring up that Chudnovsky interview again, he said that encryption will not be an option for users, and Business Insider states that both Facebook and Instagram will both be upgraded to pure end-to-end encryption. So we know that much at least.
However, Chudnovsky also brings up the issue of encryption between apps, insinuating that if one person's app in the chat is not updated yet to support encryption but the other is, then it will go unencrypted. Messenger is trying to figure all of this out, it seems, so it's likely that there will be some protections in place to know when you are and aren't able to send encrypted messages based on the person's app and their app version. It's possible it could force users to update, which is already a common thing for developers to do.
Currently, this trio of Facebook apps handles chat very differently. Messenger and WhatsApp offer rich, feature-filled methods of staying in touch with friends, including theming, quote replies, GIF search, stickers, and so much more. Instagram, on the other hand, isn't a messaging app first and foremost. Its DMs are more barebones, to say the least, focusing more on simple messaging than fun and interactive chatting.
That in itself isn't an issue, but those differences could render threads between the apps very difficult. What happens if you react to an Instagram or WhatsApp message in Messenger? Will Facebook add the feature to these apps, or will users receive a message like "Jake 'laughed' at your message," similar to how iOS handles reactions with SMS vs. iMessage. What about games? Will game invitations sent from Messenger result in a confirmed error? Or will Facebook bring that functionality to Instagram and WhatsApp?
One simple solution is to reduce the features of chats sent between different apps. Perhaps when you start a thread in Messenger with a user on Instagram or WhatsApp, you see a much simpler interface, to ensure equal messaging across all platforms.
Better yet, Facebook could eventually design a new messaging system for all three apps, so that whether you're on Messenger, Instagram, or WhatsApp, your threads look — or at least act — exactly the same. But we already know that last possibility would be a long time away if so since Chudnovsky already stated that the core features of each messaging service will stat the same at first.
In the Chudnovsky interview, he states that Messenger and Instagram may be connected first, and then when that's smoothed out, WhatsApp will be included afterward, but that is not definitive.
"We would probably try to make it possible to go from Messenger to Instagram and back first, and then send to WhatsApp second, but we haven't decided," Chudnovsky said.
What are you hoping to see from this Facebook chat integration? Let us know in the comments below.