Mark Zuckerberg: Facebook won't merge the backends of WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram until at least 2020

  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on an earnings call that the planned integration of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram direct messages won't happen until 2020 at the earliest.
  • He laid particular emphasis on rolling out end-to-end encryption on the new amalgamated service, which is currently a big WhatsApp's selling point.
  • Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, and its cofounders left in the past two years reportedly after clashing with Facebook executives over user privacy.

Mark Zuckerberg says that Facebook's plans to merge Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram's messaging service won't see the light of day until 2020 at the earliest.

In Facebook's fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said the plans to stitch together the backend of the three messaging services were still primitive.

"There's a lot more that we need to figure out before we finalize the plans. And then, of course, this is going to be a long-term project that I think will probably be to whatever extent we end up doing it in — a 2020 thing or beyond," he said.

Read more: "This is probably the last time you'll ever talk to me": WhatsApp's cofounder broke his silence about his icy relationship with Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook's plans to assimilate the three services was first reported by The New York Times this month. Nick Clegg, Facebook's global policy and communications chief, laid out some of the issues Facebook needs to overcome earlier this week. He told an audience in Brussels:

"We haven't worked out how that will work, whether it's workable, what regulators may or may not think about it before they jump to any conclusions, what you would need to do, how you make that work in the data infrastructure, how much data integration you need between them."

Zuckerberg said he was excited to roll out end-to-end encryption — which is currently a WhatsApp defining feature — across the new, unified service.

"People really like this in WhatsApp. I think it's the — it's the direction that we should be going in with more things in the future. I think there's an opportunity to use the work that we have done with WhatsApp there rather than doing it in different ways in the different messaging experiences," he said.

Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, and its cofounders Brian Acton and Jan Koum left Facebook in 2017 and 2018 respectively. Media reports said Koum and Acton had clashed with Facebook top brass over user privacy.

Instagram's founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger also left the company in September 2018, and reports suggested that clashes arose after Facebook dialled back the autonomy it had once promised Instagram.