On Tuesday, April 30, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg unveiled major redesign and restructuring plans for Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. He said that Facebook is pivoting to a more user-centric app model, in which privacy will the top priority.
Zuckerberg said, “For the last 15 years, we’ve built Facebook and Instagram into digital equivalents of the town square, where you can interact with lots of people at once. Now we’re focused on building the digital equivalent of the living room, where you can interact in all the ways you’d want privately—from messaging and stories to secure payments and more.
Zuckerberg said that, at the core of the redesign, is increasing private interactions, encryption, reduced permanence, safety, interoperability, and secure data storage.
Everything new coming to Facebook and Messenger
“Over the next year, we plan Messenger [to be] the fastest private communication app on the entire planet”, said Asha Sharma, a representative of Messenger.
The Messenger app will be updated to consume less battery and storage, while working at a faster pace. It will also contain default end-to-end encryption. The app is expected to be more focused on friends and familial relationships.
It is expected that, Messenger users will also be allowed to send messages and make calls to their contacts on Instagram and WhatsApp. The second tab on the app will be reserved for special contacts, where you can share and view your status, stories, and memories.
“We’re also going to be announcing a new experience for people to watch videos together directly inside of Messenger”, said Sharma.
Messenger will also be getting a desktop app, so people can use it from any device.
A new Facebook app
The Facebook app itself will be getting a sleeker, with a more minimalistic design that has already been launched in the US and Canada, according to Fiji Simo, head of the Facebook App.
Simo says that Facebook now allows users to switch to dark mode and save their spot in the newsfeed to start browsing where they last stopped.
They have redesigned the Groups tab to give more suggestions about groups a user might be interested in and a quick, personalised view of groups they are already members of. Users can now directly compose messages to post on a group. In health support groups, users can request the Admin to post anonymously on their behalf.
The Marketplace tab will also get a new template that allows employers to post job openings, and for prospective employees to apply directly through Facebook. Shippers can also use the groups feature to list shopping items they can ship. Gaming groups will get the ability to create sub-threads in chat groups, as well.
Facebook also introduces Facebook Dating and Meet New Friends, where the dating and friendship profiles are kept separate from Facebook’s main profiles, and are only visible to others who have opted into the feature.
Updates to WhatsApp
All content on WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted— from photos and videos to location.
“WhatsApp already has incredibly strong privacy and performance, so here we’re more focused on the next step, which is building out all of the ways that you would want to interact in the digital living room”, said Zuckerberg.
WhatsApp will be getting more powerful tools for businesses to communicate with each other like they already do on the app. Large businesses will be able to use the WhatsApp Business API and small business can be the WhatsApp Business App that can be downloaded from the Playstore and Apple Store. These business versions of WhatsApp will also be getting a business catalog.
Another update is to the WhatsApp Payments feature.
“We’re learning a lot from our tests in India, where a million people have been able to send and receive money”, said Ami Vora, VP of Product at Whatsapp.
In the near future, WhatsApp will be introducing its payment feature in many other countries.
Although Zuckerberg did not directly address the impact of these changes on ad revenue, he mentioned that the Facebook family of apps will be working with experts and advisers on how to make the platforms more balanced. He added that Facebook is also going to be restructured from within, but did not immediately clarify how.
“This is going to take time and we don’t have all the answers yet, but we’re focussed on getting this right and doing it openly. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you as we continue on this journey to build a private social platform”, he said.
Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius.