In a strategic move, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, has announced the removal of a prominent feature that allows users to seamlessly chat with their Facebook friends directly through Instagram. This cross-platform integration, introduced in 2020 and operationalized a year later, will be dismantled starting mid-December 2023. While Meta has not provided a specific reason for this significant change, industry speculation, notably from 9to5Google, suggests that the decision may be a pre-emptive measure to evade potential regulatory consequences in the European Union.
Unraveling the Cross-Platform Integration
Initially announced in 2019, the cross-platform integration aimed to dissolve the boundaries between two of Meta’s most widely-used services, Facebook and Instagram. Loredena Crisan, Vice President of Messenger, emphasized its opt-in nature, likening it to the existing capability of conversing between different email providers. The move was perceived as an effort to create a more interconnected experience for users across the Meta ecosystem.
However, with the impending disconnection, users will no longer be able to initiate new chats or calls with their Facebook friends directly from Instagram. Existing conversations with Facebook accounts on Instagram will be relegated to a read-only status. Moreover, Facebook accounts will lose visibility into users’ activity status and read receipts, and any ongoing chats with Facebook accounts will not transfer to the respective inboxes on either platform.
Regulatory Landscape and Potential Motivations
The timing of Meta’s decision to dismantle this cross-messaging feature aligns with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act, a legislative framework implemented in 2022. Crafted to deter platform holders from achieving monopoly-like dominance, the act empowers the European Commission to impose penalties of up to 10 percent of a company’s global turnover from the previous year if it surpasses a defined revenue threshold and is deemed excessively dominant.
This enforcement mechanism has led industry observers to speculate that Meta might be strategically withdrawing the cross-messaging feature to mitigate potential regulatory repercussions. The move could be seen as Meta’s proactive response to align with evolving regulatory landscapes, prioritizing risk mitigation over the continuation of a feature that could expose the company to significant penalties.
As the mid-December deadline approaches, users are urged to prepare for the discontinuation of this once-integrated feature, marking a shift in Meta’s approach as it navigates the complex terrain of international regulations and antitrust concerns.