“I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms,” Zuckerberg wrote Wednesday.
Facebook is no stranger to private messaging. Messenger counts over 1.3 billion users. And let’s not forget that the company paid $19 billion for WhatsApp back in 2014, when everybody was trying to make sense of such a move. So, is Facebook on the verge of a major transformation?
Mark Zuckerberg himself took center stage on March 6 explaining that private messaging will soon be the most popular way that people interact on Facebook products:
“As I think about the future of the internet, I believe a privacy-focused communications platform will become even more important than today’s open platforms. I expect future versions of Messenger and WhatsApp to become the main ways people communicate on the Facebook network.”
Of course this would mean a radical change in the way Facebook was built and operates. Neither Facebook nor Instagram are built around privacy. On the contrary, their core products are about broadcasting, connecting with more people and brands. Its revenue model is almost totally dependent on lasting information shared by users, allowing brands to reach out through hyper-targeted messaging.
Yes, but then Cambridge Analytica happened. And then more privacy issues were revealed. And suddenly, privacy was at the heart of everyone’s concern.
“People are more cautious of having a permanent record of what they’ve shared. I believe the future of communication will increasingly shift to private, encrypted services where people can be confident what they say to each other stays secure and their messages and content won’t stick around forever. This is the future I hope we will help bring about.”
While a strong announcement, this does not entirely come as a surprise either. Facebook has worked hard and committed a lot of resources to upgrade and monetize its private messaging realm: WhatsApp ads are coming, Messenger is becoming a complete communication platforms for people and brands, and Instagram is thinking about bringing its Direct Message feature to the web and desktops.
The question is, however, what will be the right business model for Facebook once users stop sharing public information?