Connecting with friends, spying on ex boyfriends and even sizing up a potential new employee – comes at a cost. Facebook has now pulled the venture.
Facebook is moving closer to combining Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, according to a lengthy announcement from CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Wednesday.
The goal of the multiyear plan is to make the social networking site more connected and “privacy-focused,” according to Zuckerberg.
Under the new infrastructure, the three applications would remain distinct while allowing users to chat with one another, regardless of their platform.
Zuckerberg said in a blog post that he believes that private, encrypted communication will be the most popular way that people interact in the future.
“As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”
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Part of the plan calls for each of the apps to be encrypted so no one could see the contents of the messages except for the sender and recipients.
WhatsApp already has that security function, but Facebook’s other messaging apps don’t.
The announcement comes on the heels of years of scandals surrounding the social network. Facebook has come under fire for the way it handles people’s data, as well as for its role in enabling fake news across its platform during the 2016 presidential election.
“Many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform – because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services,” Zuckerberg wrote in the blog post.
To execute the new plan, which is in its early stages, the social networking behemoth is consulting with experts, advocates and governments – including law enforcement and regulators – around the world.
The shift creates an opportunity for people who sell items using Facebook’s Marketplace to message potential buyers securely. It also opens up the possibility of sending payments across platforms.
“Lots of people selling items on Marketplace list their phone number so people can message them about buying it,” Zuckerberg said. “That’s not ideal, because you’re giving strangers your phone number. With interoperability, you’d be able to use WhatsApp to receive messages sent to your Facebook account without sharing your phone number.”
The new focus also means that more content can automatically expire or be archived over time so it doesn’t become a liability later.
For example, messages could be deleted after a month or a year by default, and there could be options for you to set individual messages to expire after a few minutes if you wanted.
“We increasingly believe it’s important to keep information around for shorter periods of time,” Zuckerberg said in the blog post.
As Facebook prepares to celebrate its 15th anniversary, the company is battling a stream of negative headlines. The world’s most popular social networking site was launched on February 4, 2004 by a Harvard undergraduate named Mark Zuckerberg. (Feb. 4)
Some tech experts remain skeptical that the social media giant will do enough to recover from its spotty privacy reputation.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” said Dan Goldstein, a former attorney who serves as the president of the digital marketing agency Page 1 Solutions. “He has proved time and again that Facebook is perfectly willing to sacrifice users’ private data and security in the pursuit of profit.”
Others who are wary of how the tech firm handles user data say that Facebook’s pivot is a step in the right direction.
“Strong privacy safeguards for Facebook users are long overdue. So, we are pleased to see the announcement,” said Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, known as EPIC.
In January, a coalition of advocacy groups sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking regulators to “unwind the acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram.” Unraveling the social media sites would “restore competition and innovation for Internet messaging and photo app services,” according to the coalition.
The FTC is currently investigating Facebook for allegedly violating an agreement it had with the U.S. government to keep its users’ data private.
Read the entire Facebook blog post here.
What do you think about the future of Facebook? Let Dalvin Brown know on Twitter: @Dalvin_Brown
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