Stan Chudnovsky doesn’t remember when CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other top Facebook executives began talking about treating the company’s portfolio of services more like, well, a portfolio. The current VP for Facebook’s Messenger service simply recalls that the company’s original tendency to keep Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp pretty much separate started to feel increasingly unwieldy as user numbers for each surged well past the billion mark. Instead of continuing to silo off each app, execs concluded that “we can serve people better if the experiences we are building are a little bit more interconnected,” Chudnovsky says. “That truth [had] been ringing in our ears for a long time. What was never obvious is how would we exactly go about it, and how would we prioritize it.”
To kick-start the process, Zuckerberg did what he often does: He posted about it on Facebook. On March 6, 2019, he shared a 3,219-word manifesto titled “A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking.” He drew a contrast between social networking’s “town squares”—the largely public meeting areas offered by Facebook and Instagram feeds—and its more intimate “living rooms,” as exemplified by private group chats and messages exchanged through Messenger or WhatsApp.
“Today we already see that private messaging, ephemeral stories, and small groups are by far the fastest growing areas of online communication,” Zuckerberg wrote. He detailed a wildly ambitious, years-long plan to move Facebook’s portfolio of services aggressively in that direction—and all together. Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger would follow a unified strategy to get there.