Meta has decided to terminate the cross-app chat functionality previously available between Instagram and Facebook Messenger. The integration, which commenced in 2020, aimed to streamline communication across the two platforms, providing users a unified messaging experience. Those utilizing the feature could engage in conversations with contacts across both Facebook and Instagram without switching applications, provided they had chosen to upgrade their messaging capabilities within either app.
In 2019, Meta then Facebook announced plans to unify the backend of its various messaging services, WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram. One of the obvious benefits of unifying its messaging service is enticing users to stay within its ecosystem. The change went into effect during 2020.
Expected Impact on Users
With the upcoming change, set to take effect by mid-December 2023, users will experience several adjustments to their messaging activities. The ability to initiate new chats or calls with Facebook users from Instagram will no longer exist. Moreover, ongoing conversations with Facebook contacts through Instagram will only be accessible in a read-only format, preventing the sending of new messages. The visibility of a user's Activity Status or message read receipts to Facebook accounts will be restricted as well, marking a significant step back in the interconnectedness of Meta's social media applications.
Possible Reasons Behind the Shift
Meta has not offered an explicit justification for this strategic reversal. However, it may correlate with the stipulations of the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which mandates large technology firms to facilitate interoperability among diverse messaging services.
The company has faced issues in Europe and recently announced an ad-free Facebook and Instagram to appease regulators. Earlier this year, the Facebook company was fined $1.3bn by the European Commission over failure to adhere to GDPR rules. The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) found that Meta had violated the GDPR by transferring personal data of EU users to the United States without adequate safeguards in place.
It seems that part of Meta's broader approach includes aligning with regulatory directives, as evidenced by WhatsApp's ongoing development of a “Third-Party Chats” feature. This functionality is in line with DMA's interoperability requirements, suggesting that Meta's decision to disable cross-app chatting could be a preparatory move to introduce a more holistic and compliant set of messaging services.
In addition to DMA compliance, this change might indicate a broader trend within Meta to streamline its offerings. This comes after the company ceased the SMS/MMS integration in its Messenger app for Android users and discontinued Messenger Lite, an alternative lightweight version of its popular messaging platform. Such measures point to Meta recalibrating its approach to how users communicate across its family of apps, likely to adapt to a rapidly evolving digital landscape marked by regulatory changes, user preferences, and innovation in communication technologies.