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Facebook's future could include app consolidation

Matt Kapko | April 6, 2015
Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg has been on a mission to unbundle the company's many services and expand far beyond the single application that transformed it into the largest media platform that's ever existed. Zuckerberg says the changes represent an evolution in Facebook's approach to how it connects people around the world.

Facebook is opening Messenger APIs so businesses and developers can bring personality to the shopping and communication experiences under a single app. More than 40 apps for the Messenger platform will be available at launch, and businesses including Everlane and Zulily will soon be able to have real-time conversations with their customers via Messenger.

"We truly feel that together we have a shot at reinventing how a billion people communicate every day," Marcus says.

Different apps for different purposes ... for now

As more and more apps splinter off into various platforms and integrate their core services with outside developers, however, industry watchers are wondering how long these platforms will stand on their own without a clear connection to the core Facebook platform.

Mary Meeker, an analyst and partner with venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, gave rise to this notion during a rare chat with the three Facebook executives in charge of WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger.

"There's a theory that in five years all your products are going to morph into one. The name might be WhatsInstaMessage," Meeker told the trio on stage at F8. "There are messaging apps in other parts of the world that have everything with the kitchen sink thrown in. How do you prevent that from happening and how do you make those choices about not adding more stuff?"

The head of each platform offered a unique take on that question, but also shared insights into the individual roles they serve in an increasingly fragmented world of communication and media consumption.

WhatsApp cofounder Brian Acton thinks the decision comes down to users. "I'm a purist to the user experience," Acton said. "If a user were to write in and say, 'Hey, I want a unified experience,' then I'd give it a much stronger consideration, but the users really aren't writing in asking for that."

Most users care more about bugs fixes, the flow of messaging and the overall reliability of WhatsApp, Acton says, but still he doesn't discount the notion that many of the company's different apps could eventually morph into one. "When the time comes I think we'll do it an intelligent and thoughtful fashion, but in the meantime I think we're going to continue to execute well and grow our populations."

All of Facebook's apps serve a different audience and set of objectives, according to Mike Krieger, cofounder and technical lead at Instagram.

"I think people have a very particular mindset when they go into Instagram and a very particular mindset when they go into WhatsApp and a very particular one with Messenger," Krieger says. "That's ultimately, I think, what distinguishes them."


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