Facebook is planning on integrating the messaging services of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
While all three apps will continue to work as stand-alone applications, the underlying messaging infrastructure will be integrated.
For example, a Facebook Messenger user could message a WhatsApp user, which is something that is currently not possible.
The integration effort will be completed by the end of 2019 or early 2020, according to reporting by The New York Times, which interviewed four people familiar with the project.
Why is Facebook Integrating the messaging components of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger?
The integration effort is reported to have caused some internal strife.
Instagram's founders, Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom, unexpectedly left Facebook in September 2018, as Mark Zuckerberg began taking more control over what was previously a completely separate application.
And WhatsApp founders Brian Acton and Jan Koum departed for similar reasons.
Facebook hasn't yet provided specific reasons for why they are making these changes, but there must be some reasons why they would reverse their previous position of allowing Instagram and WhatsApp to operate as independent apps.
Here's my $0.02.
Integration Reason 1: Chatbots
Q: Who the heck would ever want to message someone on WhatsApp using Instagram?
It would be super-annoying for businesses to have to make separate chatbots for WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
Businesses would like to be able to message their customers regardless of what platform they are using.
This change would appear (in theory) to extend the reach of a Facebook Messenger chatbot to a significantly larger and more geographically and demographically diverse population, which I think creates a super-compelling case for businesses to engage and communicate with their customers via chat.
Integration Reason 2: Alternative to Email
Email marketing today is a $100-billion-plus industry.
Yet email marketing is awful.
Any company or individual can simply guess your email or buy it from an email list vendor, then send you unsolicited emails.
And don't expect those companies to honor your unsubscribes, despite government regulations.
Yet there is no credible alternative to email for business-to-consumer communications, due to user fragmentation.
Everyone uses email, yet people use so many different messaging platforms.
(I personally use Messenger, iMessage, SMS, and sometimes even Skype.)
Merging messaging across these three enormously popular applications would create a messaging system that could rival the ubiquity of email.
Businesses could reach most internet users, while users could look forward to the elimination of spam, since Facebook requires that users opt into receiving messages from businesses.
Integration Reason 3: WeChat
In China, there is no "news feed."
There is only WeChat, which is used like an alternative to a Web browser--not just for messaging, but also to buy clothing, call a ride sharing service, order lunch, etc.
No such service exists in the Western world due to the user fragmentation of messaging platforms.
If Facebook could consolidate messenger utilization, more and more businesses could roll out business services (chatbots) on top of that platform.
And this would be enormously valuable to Facebook, as Tencent (the parent company of WeChat) is worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
The Future of Chat Marketing
Consumers already overwhelmingly prefer chat versus email as a communication channel, and today's announcement makes it even more critical that marketers start engaging their customers via messaging.