As I was signing in to messenger, I noticed a new banner at the bottom of the page : Coming soon! Message your Instagram friends right from Messenger. Even though I knew that Facebook had acquired Instagram as well as other social media applications years ago, they had until now remained their own entities. Given that Facebook generally mutualized the features from their various social media applications and made them available to all and that the company shares data across its platforms, it actually isn’t very surprising that Facebook plans to cut out the middle man and simply merge the different social media services.
On September 30th, Facebook announced that Instagram will start featuring Messenger capabilities. The company also included a video clearly showing that Instagram’s DM will eventually be replaced by Messenger. This attempt to merge all the various acquisitions into one company has had several entities calling foul.
In December, most US states and territories filled an antitrust suit against Facebook, claiming that it is not allowing fair competition and is instead buying and bullying all new entrants. The social media company however does not agree, claiming that this cannot be an anti-trust issue since the acquisitions were done years ago with no issue and that the new entrants would not have grown to this size were it not for Facebook’s involvement. It would also be very difficult and unfair to break up these companies as they have had their operations intertwined for years.
The outcome of this lawsuit will likely not be decided in the upcoming months or years and this has not stopped Facebook from further integrating its services. On January 11th, Facebook introduced the new WhatsApp Terms and Conditions, that would serve to increase data sharing between the parent company and the acquisition. In typical Facebook fashion, the details of the new policy were not clear, leading many to fear that Facebook will start reading private messages on an application that is meant to be encrypted from end-to-end. There has been backlash from several countries, for example Italy and India.
All of these recent privacy and competition scandals focused around Facebook have had negative impacts on both the company’s brand image and its user base. In the case of the new privacy agreement, WhatsApp could have been more transparent about what are the specific changes in order to avoid the bad press. Is there something that Facebook could have done to avoid the anti-trust lawsuit? Do you agree that Facebook has become too big? Should the government be able to reverse a sale that was done years in the past or is it the user’s responsibility to use another service in order to prevent a monopoly?