This week, Facebook confirmed rumors of its plan to change the name of two popular apps: Instagram and WhatsApp. The motivation behind this change was to more accurately disclose Facebook’s ownership of these two properties. Basically, then, you will start to see “Instagram from Facebook” and “WhatsApp from Facebook” when using these apps, respectively.
Various sources report that these apps will remain the same in your phone, and on the homescreen, so you might not notice a change. The most notable change will be quite obvious in the App store: for those who are downloading the apps for the first time, they will definitely see that “from Facebook” specification; something similar to what happened when Facebook unveiled its reality-focused division, Oculus.
According to a spokesperson from Facebook, the technology company wants to be more clear about the various products and services they own and circulate. Apparently, this change has come after much scrutiny over antitrust regulators criticizing their holdings.
Indeed, a notable amount of users might argue that Facebook has too much power on the internet already, so adding this quite explicit link to their other properties probably is not going to do them any favors. This, of course, would only add to the scrutiny about how Facebook uses information provided by users, and to what extent they have full control over the outcomes.
And to be honest, the previous system—where Facebook kept a little distance from its properties—served the both the apps and their users well, even if it was a bit artificial. Facebook’s popularity has waned in recent years but both WhatsApp and Instagram use have grown. That flex control is particularly surprising in the wake of the Federal Trade Commission investigation over Facebook’s acquisitions, especially in terms of anti-trust allegations.
At the same time, Facebook does not really stand to gain very much by simply adding its name to these apps. After all, Facebook is already the most widely-used social media app in the world (though, again, losing steam). But it is also commonly associated with privacy concerns. Thus ensuring that users know Facebook is the owner of its most popular properties will not increase their use or popularity; in fact, it might even scare away those users who are deeply concerned about security and privacy.
At the end of the day, then, we will have to see if Mark Zuckerberg’s plan for unification will, indeed, improve security (and popularity along with it).