Mark Zuckerberg wants to reposition Facebook as a privacy-focused platform.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the CEO and founder detailed his overarching vision for how to make the service more secure, including encrypting messages. He also teased plans to integrate its various services, including WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook, and said there will be a bigger emphasis on ephemeral content.
“People want to be able to choose which service they use to communicate with people. However, today if you want to message people on Facebook you have to use Messenger, on Instagram you have to use Direct, and on WhatsApp you have to use WhatsApp,” Zuckerberg wrote in the post. “We want to give people a choice so they can reach their friends across these networks from whichever app they prefer.”
Facebook plans to make it possible for users to send messages to their contacts using any of its services and SMS. But Zuckerberg said this would be an opt-in service, and users can keep their accounts separate if they prefer.
Earlier this year, the New York Times reported that Facebook planned to integrate its messaging platforms, WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger. The three services would remain separate apps, but the infrastructure behind the scenes would be the same, according to the Times.
Following that report, Facebook received some criticism and questions, such as what kind of power that would give the company.
At the time, Senator Brian Schatz from Hawaii, tweeted: “Good for encryption but bad for competition and privacy.”
In addition to convenience, Facebook on Wednesday highlighted the move’s privacy and security benefits. Zuckerberg said many people use its Messenger app on Android to send and receive SMS texts and noted those texts can’t be encrypted because the SMS protocol isn’t encrypted. However, if its messaging services are integrated, users would be able to send an encrypted message to someone’s phone number in WhatsApp from Messenger.
“I believe working towards implementing end-to-end encryption for all private communications is the right thing to do,” he said.
Zuckerberg also pointed to the success of private messaging, disappearing content and small group chats, saying these are “by far the fastest growing areas of online communication.” Instagram Stories, which disappear after 24 hours, recently hit 500 million daily active users.
Users may feel more comfortable communicating with one or a handful friends, and sharing content that won’t stick around permanently.
“People should be comfortable being themselves, and should not have to worry about what they share coming back to hurt them later. So we won’t keep messages or stories around for longer than necessary to deliver the service or longer than people want it,” Zuckerberg said.
For example, Facebook could give users an option to have messages automatically delete after a year, month or even seconds after they’re sent. It could also stop storing messaging metadata for a long time.
Zuckerberg also acknowledged the company’s past issues with privacy. The company has faced a growing list of privacy issues, including the Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the biggest security breach in its history.
“I understand that many people don’t think Facebook can or would even want to build this kind of privacy-focused platform — because frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services, and we’ve historically focused on tools for more open sharing,” he wrote. “But we’ve repeatedly shown that we can evolve to build the services that people really want, including in private messaging and stories.”