Facebook might be making a big new change. According to a new report, Facebook’s standalone Messenger app might return to the company’s main social networking app soon, and in fact, some users might already see the change happening on their accounts. Engadget reported on Apr. 12 that tech blogger and researcher Jane Manchun Wong recently found that a “Chats” section had appeared within her main Facebook app, which echoes the way the service originally worked before Messenger was sealed off into an app of its own. Wong posted screenshots of her findings on Twitter, tagging technology publication Techmeme.
When reached for comment by Mic, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We are testing ways to improve the messaging experience for people within the Facebook app. Messenger remains a feature-rich, stand-alone messaging app with over a billion people using it monthly to connect with the people and businesses they care about most. We do not have any additional details to share at this time.”
Back in 2011, when Facebook debuted Messenger as a separate app from its main offering, the company scrubbed all mention of the chat service from the main app to make it clear they were very separate entities. Before that time, if users went into the main Facebook app and clicked on the messages icon, they were sent to a “Chats” section, which is similar to what Wong found to be happening now. Per her screenshots, it looks like the potential re-integration isn’t complete just yet, however, as the new Chats section only contains the most basic chat functions. Wong still has to use the Messenger app to send photos, react to messages or make calls.
Wong also uncovered a variety of changes reportedly coming to Facebook, such as Fundraiser stickers and Messenger-like “Story reaction” additions, where users can add smiley faces, thumbs up signs, hearts, and other emoji to other people’s Stories. Additionally, Wong spotted the arrival of a feature called Facebook Dating, a dating service that allow users to integrate with Instagram to display photos on one central profile. Facebook Dating was first announced back in November 2018 and has launched internationally, but this is the first real glimpse anyone in the U.S. has seen of it in action.
It’s what might be happening with Messenger, though, that’s most intriguing, as a New York Times report from January said that Facebook would soon be unifying Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp through the company’s “underlying technical infrastructure” for security purposes. Over the past few years, there have been privacy concerns from some users and high-profile personalities who have lobbied for for tighter privacy-focused regulations in the wake of security breaches and the Cambridge Analytica scandal. If Facebook unites the three apps, each platform would have the end-to-end encryption that WhatsApp currently has, which “protects messages from being viewed by anyone except the participants in a conversation,” according to the Times.
Even if the apps become united in terms of infrastructure, they’ll each still operate separately, per the Times. So while chat could be returning to the main Facebook app, Messenger will still operate as its own messaging platform. Eagle-eyed users will want to keep an eye on their accounts over the coming months to see if, like Wong, they too see these changes occur. Although the Times report indicated that Facebook planned to have any potential updates completed by late 2019 or early 2020, Wong’s findings excitingly indicate that things might just be happening a whole lot sooner.