Fast Company: Inside Facebook’s Quadruple Play: How the Company Is Finally Melding Its Apps
Stan Chudnovsky doesn’t remember when CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives began talking about treating the company’s portfolio of services more like, well, a portfolio. The current VP for Facebook’s Messenger service simply recalls that the company’s original tendency to keep Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp pretty much separate started to feel increasingly unwieldy as user numbers for each surged well past the billion mark. Instead of continuing to silo off each app, execs concluded that “we can serve people better if the experiences we are building are a little bit more interconnected,” Chudnovsky says. “That truth [had] been ringing in our ears for a long time. What was never obvious is how would we exactly go about it, and how would we prioritize it.”
To kick-start the process, Zuckerberg did what he often does: He posted about it on Facebook. On March 6, 2019, he shared a 3,219-word manifestotitled “A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking.” He drew a contrast between social networking’s “town squares” — the largely public meeting areas offered by Facebook and Instagram feeds — and its more intimate “living rooms,” as exemplified by private group chats and messages exchanged through Messenger or WhatsApp.
As Zuckerberg predicted in his 2019 post, skepticism about Facebook’s efforts to stitch together its properties is running high. Some critics see them as a preemptive gambit to make itself tougher to disentangle, should current spikes of antitrust fever on Capitol Hill turn into government action to break it up or impose new restrictions on its behavior.
“The fact that they’re continuing to race to do that is really irresponsible,” says Sarah Miller, executive director of the American Economic Liberties Project, which has called for the breakup of both Facebook and Google on the grounds that their dominance of major internet services harms society and democracy and makes them too big to regulate in their current form. “It’s also disrespectful to policy makers and to our democratic institutions that have raised clear and obvious concerns with their acquisition strategy over the years.”