Meta killing off Instagram, Messenger cross-platform chatting

How could you, Mark? Oh, right - gotta avoid those pesky EU gatekeeper rules

Meta plans to end support for cross-app messaging between Facebook Messenger and Instagram, the social media biz quietly announced in a pair of help page updates. 

Beginning sometime in the middle of December, cross-app communication between Messenger and Instagram will cease to function. For users of one or the other apps, that means no new conversations can be started with users, existing chat threads between platforms will become read-only, and stored chats won't be moved to the inbox. 

Meta only introduced cross-app messaging in late 2020 when it copied a bunch of features once reserved for the standalone Facebook Messenger app to Instagram to allow the two apps to chat. 

"We're connecting the Messenger and Instagram experience to bring some of the best Messenger features to Instagram – so you have access to the best messaging experience, no matter which app you use," Instagram lead Adam Mosseri and Messenger head Stan Chudnovsky said in a canned statement at the time. 

"With this update, it will be even easier to stay connected without thinking about which app to use to reach your friends and family," they added. 

The reason for Meta's elimination of the feature is unclear, especially in light of the supposedly user-friendly reason for its launch and Zuck & Co's mission statement of "giving people the power to build community and bring the world closer together." If anything, eliminating cross-app messaging just pushes users further apart.

Meta didn't respond to questions from The Register

The New York Times speculated the same day that Meta announced the feature in 2020 that the move was less about user friendliness and more about knitting its products together in a manner that would make it harder for the government to separate them in an antitrust breakup

The EU Digital Markets Act: Another possible reason

Any plans Meta may have had to avoid an antitrust fracture may have come to naught after its designation as a gatekeeper under the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which went into force earlier this year. 

Gatekeepers weren't designated by Europe until September, with Meta and its communication apps WhatsApp and Messenger, among the specific services targeted for stricter regulation. 

Among the requirements gatekeepers and their platforms must adhere to is third-party interoperability, which Meta doesn't appear to want to subject Messenger to - it's been fighting the gatekeeper designation for Messenger and its Marketplace platform, which is also designated as a gatekeeper by EU regulators. 

Meta hasn't contested Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp's designations, we note, and has reportedly been developing features for WhatsApp to keep it compliant with the DMA.

Ensuring that Messenger doesn't have to comply with gatekeeper requirements, which go into effect in March 2024, means Meta arguing that it's not a gatekeeper but just a feature of another platform, i.e., Facebook. 

We reached out to EU officials to see if the move was prompted by talks between them and Meta and will update this story if we hear back. ®

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