Facebook, which already has three major platforms: Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp. It is hoped that the three platforms will be integrated to create a “super social network”.
Facebook plans to integrate the social network’s messaging services — WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger. After the integration, the three platforms would share the same database, network and community.
According to NY Times，Facebook CEO Zuckerberg has confirmed that it plans to unify the underlying technical infrastructure of these apps, allowing people to communicate across the platforms for the first time. However, the plan is still in an early stage.
After a series of troubles in 2018, Facebook’s market share has declined significantly. The New York times pointed out that the main motivation behind Facebook’s integration of the three platforms is to make it easier and safer for each other to send messages between the three platforms, so as to preserve its dominance in social media.
Some critics argue that if Facebook’s three platforms are so integrated, not only will it be difficult for future regulators to separate Facebook’s assets from those three platforms, there are also more risks. The market is worried that the background of the merger may violate U.S. antitrust laws, and it may also lead to the disclosure of users’ privacy and the loss of users.
Monopoly, user privacy, user leaving… potential risks in the social media empire
In 2001, the Federal Government and a number of state governments jointly sued Microsoft, which was claimed being in violation of the Sherman Act. The core issue of the case is whether Microsoft can bundle Microsoft’s browser in its windows operating system, which is believed to be the fundamental reason why Microsoft won the browser war. The case was eventually settled by the Federal Justice Department.
Although Microsoft did not win in the end, Facebook’s lawyers may learn something from history.
Users would care more about whether the integration can make its products more friendly or not. For example, Apple’s messaging software, iMessage, can break through the barriers of different operating systems, while Facebook’s communications software groups divide people.
In addition, many companies around the world are working on Facebook’s communications software, and how to improve their user experience is one of the questions that Facebook must consider.
User privacy is also an issue that must be considered in the context of Facebook’s three platforms. At present, only the information from WhatsApp has been encrypted through a more mature program. If the three platforms get through in the background, users will inevitably worry that their privacy may be compromised. At present, Mr. Zuckerberg does not yet have specific plans.
For users, different platform plays a different role. Facebook and Facebook Messenger ask users to provide their true identities, while WhatsApp currently requires only a phone number when new users sign up. The integration plan raises privacy questions because of how users’ data may be shared between services.
Regulators: Facebook must explain a series of issues before integration
Facebook’s move to integrate the three platforms has raised alarm among regulators and independent agencies. The Irish data protection commission has asked Facebook to give a detailed explanation of the plan as soon as possible. Some members of Congress in the United States have also questioned this. Ro Khanna, a Democrat from California, says Facebook’s move could be against the Antitrust Law. Democratic senator Ron Wyden questions whether Facebook can effectively protect users’ privacy and data.
In fact, Facebook, the world’s largest social media, did not have a comfortable time last year. Facebook’s share in the global social media market in December 2018 was 66.3%, according to the latest data released by Statcounter, a data research firm. That’s nine percentage points down from 75.5% in the same period last year. The biggest drop was in the US market, which plunged from 76% to 52%. It can be said that Facebook’s unique position in social media market has been changed dramatically.
Facebook’s innovation seems to have stalled too. In the past few years, Facebook has had little innovation that impressed the market. Trevor Noren, a senior manager of 13D Global Strategy & Research, a research firm, points out that over the past few years, the only brilliant “innovation” is the “Moments”function learned from its competitors, Snapchat.