The adoption of Facebook interoperability between Messenger and Instagram is above expectations, according to the executive who runs the Messenger business.
“We are exceeding our expectations in terms of how fast and how many people are updating,” said Stan Chudnovsky, Facebook’s head of Messenger, in an interview.
Specifically, the company told CNBC that more than 60% of qualified users on Instagram have upgraded to the new experience, which allows them to exchange messages with people on Messenger. This is the first time that Facebook has provided a number on the update’s adoption rate.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in March 2019 announced plans to allow cross-app messaging between Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp. From Facebook’s perspective, allowing people to exchange messages between apps removes a sticking point – the idea that not everyone knows which app to use – which increases the use of messages. However, Facebook today doesn’t make much money from advertising in its messaging apps.
Facebook started deploying application-to-app communication between Messenger and Instagram users in September 2020, but it’s still a long way from integrating WhatsApp into the mix. Before that happens, Facebook will have to build end-to-end encryption in Messenger, as WhatsApp already has this feature. This update will not be completed until 2022, according to a Facebook spokeswoman.
Facebook no longer discloses the usage numbers for each application individually, but in 2017 the company said that Messenger had more than 1.3 billion monthly users, in 2018 it said Instagram had more than 1 billion, and in 2020 it said that WhatsApp had more than 2 billion users.
The adoption of Instagram and Messenger has increased the confidence of Chudnovsky and his team as they develop interoperability.
“The fact that people are updating at the same speed as they are updating on Instagram suggests that our thesis was correct and that people are definitely buying convenience,” said Chudnovsky.
Facebook says that, according to its survey, 70% of Americans use three or more messaging apps. A third of these users find it difficult to remember where certain topics of conversation are, according to Facebook. That’s why the company says it is developing communication between applications.
“A large percentage of them don’t really know where to go to speak to a specific person,” he said. “As a result, you are just exchanging messages.”
Facebook’s Messenger service could serve more users if Apple opens up its iOS ecosystem to allow iPhone users to choose their default messaging apps, said Chudnovsky.
“When it comes to messaging apps, we are very pro-choice from the point of view that people should be able to choose which specific app is the default app on their phones, so that their preference is really respected,” he said.
At the moment, iPhone users should use the company’s iMessage app to send text messages to their friends. This contrasts with Google’s Android operating system, which allows users to set other messaging services, including Facebook Messenger, as their default application for sending text messages.
IPhone users who prefer Messenger over Apple’s iMessage app “are at a disadvantage because they can’t change that pattern and they have to stick with what Apple wants them to use,” said Chudnovsky.
“We don’t necessarily feel that this is how it should be, but we are trying to play within the rules of the ecosystem and we have to respect any rules that platforms impose on us, although we feel that this puts people at a disadvantage,” he said.