The plan, which is in the early stages, with an ending goal at the end of this year or early 2020, requires that thousands of Facebook employees reconfigure how WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger work on Its most basic levels, said people involved in the effort, who spoke about the condition of anonymity because the issue is confidential.
Zuckerberg also ordered that all applications incorporate end-to-end encryption, they said, he said, a great step that protects messages that no-one sees, except the participants in the conversation.
In a statement, Facebook said that I wanted to "create the best messaging experiences we can, and people want the messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private."
He added: "We are working to make many of our messaging products end-to-end codified and consider ways to facilitate access to friends and family through networks."
By putting together the infrastructure of the applications, Zuckerberg hopes to increase the usefulness of Facebook and keep users highly committed within the company's ecosystem.
This could reduce the appetite of people for rival messaging services, such as those offered by Apple and Google.
If users can interact more frequently with Facebook applications, it is possible that the company may also increase their advertising business or add new revenue generating services, said the people.
The change follows two years of scrutiny of Facebook's main social network, which has been criticized for allowing electoral interference and disclosure of misinformation.
These and other issues have slowed the growth of Facebook and damaged its reputation, raising the hackles of legislators and regulators around the world.
Zuckerberg has repeatedly apologized for the problems and has pledged to fix them.
Making Facebook's applications is a raw investment from Zuckerberg's previous position towards WhatsApp and Instagram, which were independent companies that Facebook acquired.
At the time of the acquisitions, Zuckerberg promised to WhatsApp and Instagram a great deal of autonomy from its new parent company. (Facebook Messenger is an own service created from the main application of Facebook in 2014.)
WhatsApp and Instagram have grown enormously since then, causing Zuckerberg to change his mind, said one of the people.
Now, he believes that integrating services will most benefit the full "family of applications" of Facebook in the long term by making them more useful, the person said.
Zuckerberg floated the idea for months and began to promote it to employees more strongly by the end of 2018, people said.
The effort has sparked Facebook fights. The founders of Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, left the company abruptly in September after Zuckerberg started even more.
The founders of WhatsApp, Jan Koum and Brian Acton, left for similar reasons.
More recently, dozens of WhatsApp employees confronted Zuckerberg on the integration plan on internal message boards and during a contentious meeting in December, according to four people who attended or received information about the event.
The integration plan raises privacy issues due to how users' data can be shared between the services.
WhatsApp now only requires a phone number when new users sign up.
Conversely, Facebook and Facebook Messenger ask users to provide their true identities. Matching Facebook and Instagram users with their WhatsApp IDs could pause those who prefer to keep the use of each separate application.
"As you would expect, there is a lot of discussion and debate as we begin the long process of finding out all the details on how this will work," Facebook said in a statement.
"A terrible result"
Marc Rotenberg, chairman and CEO of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said on Friday the change would be "a terrible outcome for Internet users."
He urged the Federal Trade Commission, the de facto privacy regulator of America, to "act now to protect privacy and preserve competition."
Democratic representative Ro Khanna of California criticized the change over antitrust reasons.
"That's why I should have had much more scrutiny during Instagram's Facebook and WhatsApp acquisitions, which now seem to be horizontal mergers that would have triggered anti-trust scrutiny," he said in a statement. message on Twitter.
"Imagine how different the world would be if Facebook were to compete with Instagram and with WhatsApp."
People in many countries often rely on only one or two text message services.
In China, WeChat, which is made by Tencent, is popular, while WhatsApp is widely used in South America.
Americans are more divided in the use of these services, SMS text messages, Apple iMessage and several Google chat applications.
For Facebook, the movement also offers ways to make money with Instagram and WhatsApp.
At the moment, WhatsApp generates few revenues; Instagram produces revenue, but none of its messages.
Zuckerberg still has no specific plans to obtain benefits from the integration of services, said two of the people involved in the topic.
A more committed audience could lead to new forms of advertising or other services that Facebook could charge a fee, they said.
A potential commercial opportunity implies Facebook Marketplace, a free product like Craigslist where people can buy and sell goods.
The service is very popular in Southeast Asia and other markets outside of the United States.
When applications are unified, buyers and market vendors of Southeast Asia will be able to communicate with each other through WhatsApp, which is very popular in the region, instead of using Facebook Messenger or a other non-Facebook text message service.
This could possibly generate new opportunities for ads or benefits-generating services, one of the people said.
Some Facebook employees said they were confused about what the messaging services so attractive to Zuckerberg would do.
Some said he was nervous because of his past promises on independence.
When Facebook acquired WhatsApp for $ 19,900 million in 2014, Koum publicly talked about user privacy and said: "If joining Facebook wanted to change our values, we would not have done so."
Last month, during one of the monthly WhatsApp meetings for staff members, it became clear that Zuckerberg's mandate would be a priority in 2019, said one person there.
A WhatsApp employee made an analysis of how many new US users in the integration plan could take to Facebook, said two family members of the study. The total was relatively scarce, it showed the analysis.
Concerned with concerns, Zuckerberg convened a follow-up meeting with WhatsApp employees a few days later, three of the people said.
On December 7, the employees gathered around the microphones of the WhatsApp offices to ask why he was so invested in the merging of services.
Some say their answers were strangers and snakes. Several WhatsApp employees have abandoned or plan to leave because of Zuckerberg plans, they said.
The unification of the infrastructure for WhatsApp, Instagram and Facebook Messenger is technically challenging.
Unlike Facebook Messenger and Instagram, WhatsApp does not store messages and maintain minimum user data. It is the only service that currently uses the end-to-end encryption by default.
Encrypted messaging has been supported by privacy advocates who fear that governments or hackers can access personal messages from people.
But it will pose other problems for Facebook, especially related to its ability to detect and slow down the spread of illicit activity or misinformation.
Last year, researchers had trouble following misinformation in WhatsApp before the Brazilian presidential elections, before finding possible ways to do so.
Recently, WhatsApp has placed the limits of the times that a message can be forwarded to the service, in an effort to reduce the distribution of fake content.
The New York Times