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Facebook is integrating the messaging functions of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp

Key Points
  • The three messaging services would remain standalone apps, but would allow for communication between the apps for the first time, according to the New York Times.
  • The primary founders of Instagram and WhatsApp have all left the company, amid reports of power struggles and disagreements about advertising strategy.
  • An integration of this size could raise questions of antitrust action.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer and founder of Facebook, holds his phone after the morning session at the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, July 13, 2018.
David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Facebook is planning to integrate the messaging functions of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, in a streamlining move that could drag Facebook's sister apps into the same privacy hot water as its core platform.

The New York Times first reported the change and said CEO Mark Zuckerberg is personally behind the move to integrate. The three messaging services — currently independent offerings — would remain standalone apps, but would allow for communication between the apps for the first time, the Times reported. A Messenger user could ping a friend on WhatsApp, for example.

All three apps will offer end-to-end encryption, a company spokesperson confirmed to CNBC.

"We're working on making more of our messaging products end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks. As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of figuring out all the details of how this will work, " the spokesperson said in a statement.

An integration of this size could raise questions of antitrust action. The company's family of apps sees north of 2.5 billion users each month and dominates mobile traffic. Zuckerberg said in October that Facebook considers Apple and its iMessage services its biggest competitor. The Times report said the integration between WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram is being developed in part to keep users from migrating to another, rival messaging service.

EU lawmakers have previously dinged Facebook for approaching a monopoly on mobile messaging. Zuckerberg at the time argued that users have choice because the average American uses eight social apps. Facebook controls three of those eight, in addition to WhatsApp, and it now plans to integrate them.

Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, adding to its growing family of apps. The companies were intended to operate independently under the Facebook umbrella. But the primary founders of Instagram and WhatsApp have all left the company over the last two years, amid reports of power struggles and disagreements about advertising strategy.

WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton tweeted last year that users should delete Facebook, a sentiment that gained popularity alongside widespread backlash against the company's data and privacy policies. Acton's co-founder Jan Koum left Facebook a month later, and Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger abruptly announced their departures in September.

Read the full report at The New York Times.

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WATCH: Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook business practices in WSJ op-ed.

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Mark Zuckerberg defends Facebook business practices in WSJ op-ed