Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp do much the same thing, and they’re both owned by the same company, so what’s the point of having them operate as separate services? According to co-founder Brian Acton, the difference is that WhatsApp wants to remain a pure, simplistic messaging service for its hundreds of million of users. Messenger, on the other hand, is Facebook’s attempt to create a messaging platform for third-party businesses and developers.
WhatsApp doesn’t want to be a platform. Co-founder Brian Acton, on a panel Wednesday at Facebook’s F8 developer conference, made that very clear. Unlike its sibling service Messenger, which has started courting outside developers and businesses, all that matters to WhatsApp is that the service remain stable, simple and unfettered for its worldwide audience of 100 million monthly active users. That matters to parent company Facebook too, but likely for different reasons. WhatsApp—which sold to the social network last year for $19 billion dollars—offers an interesting counterpoint to Facebook’s big Messenger push. Because with less redundancy between the two, the company could essentially own a decent chunk of the world’s conversations. Imagine what it’s like using some of the most robust, dynamic mobile applications available today—complete with the sort of images, animated GIFs, music and videos that will assault Facebook’s Messenger app soon enough. Now imagine running that on a slow cellular Edge network straight out of 1995.