In Facebook’s continued but understated drive to merge and interconnect all of its apps together, a new report by The Verge has surfaced reporting that a new update for Instagram closer integrates Messenger into the app.
After updating the app on both iOS and Android devices, The Verge editors were greeted by this screen:
A quick skim read of the list of updates looks like another minor scheduled tweak that streamlines and improves the app in small ways, but one point in particular, tucked at the end, stands out:
“Chat with friends who use Facebook.”
“Once you hit update, the regular DM icon in the top right of Instagram is replaced by the Facebook Messenger logo,” The Verge reported. “Chats on Instagram are indeed more colorful than before, with the sender’s messages shifting between blue and purple as you scroll. However, at least for right now, it’s still not possible to message Facebook users from Instagram.”
On the Lebanese Google Play store, I was not able to find this update yet, as it seems Instagram is rolling out the update to select people and regions.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed this, telling The Verge in an email that they were testing the experience:
“A small set of people were able to update to a new test experience for Instagram messaging,” the spokesperson said. “We hope they enjoy the experience and we are looking forward to testing it in other countries so we can keep learning from this.”
Building an unrivaled empire, one copy at a time
In retrospect, this latest move fits with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s plans to integrate the social network’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger, which The New York Times reported on last year. If you’ve paid attention to your Facebook-owned apps since then, recent updates have added a new text at the bottom of the intro loading page.
The first one showcased Facebook’s other apps: If you open Instagram, for example, you’d see icons of Whatsapp and Messenger at the bottom of the loading screen. Now, it just says “From Facebook.”
“By stitching the apps’ infrastructure together, Mr. Zuckerberg hopes to increase Facebook’s utility and keep users highly engaged inside the company’s ecosystem,” The New York Times said at the time. “That could reduce people’s appetite for rival messaging services, like those offered by Apple and Google. If users can interact more frequently with Facebook’s apps, the company might also be able to increase its advertising business or add new revenue-generating services, the people said.”
To top off this integration of apps, Facebook has been no stranger to copying rivals to compete with the competition.
“In the summer of 2016, [Zuckerberg] told company employees at an all-hands meeting that they shouldn’t let their pride get in the way of doing what is best for users—even if that meant copying rival companies,” Wired reported. “Zuckerberg’s message became an informal slogan at Facebook: ‘Don’t be too proud to copy.’ And it certainly wasn’t.”
Just last month, we saw an example of this. With Zoom being the latest rival on the block, Facebook has turned its attention to video conferencing. As such, its July update saw the company add a feature called Messenger Rooms which allows for video conferencing on the app, while remaining integrated with the rest of Facebook’s features such as Pages. It’s being marketed as an extension of Facebook Live, but in reality it’s not difficult to see it as another tool to upend a new rival. The timing says it all.
Has Facebook become the big bad of the social media world? We have to wonder at this point.