Meta is separating Instagram and Facebook messages as the EU watches on

Facebook Messenger New Look
(Image credit: Meta Platforms, Inc.)

The world of the instant messaging app is a complicated one with more options than most of us could ever use. Your iPhone comes with iMessage built right into the Messages app, but there are tons of other options including Telegram, Signal, WhatsApp, and more. Two of those messaging apps are getting a divorce, and the reason for it could be the most interesting part of the whole story.

The Meta-owned Instagram and Facebook Messenger apps have long been intertwined in a way that is set to go away, although it hasn't been confirmed via a press release or official statement. Instead, the change was quietly pushed to a support page but the upshot is the same regardless. While previously Instagram users were able to message Facebook Messenger users and vice versa, that's going away. The fact that it ever existed in the first place might come as a surprise to some — it doesn't appear that it ever went live in Europe, which interesting for reasons we'll get to later.

As for when the loss of cross-platform messaging will take place, a vague "mid-December" has been offered. That means that we should expect the interoperability to end within the next week or so, so keep that in mind if you've been using one app or the other because there's a good chance you're soon going to need them both. We'll overlook the discussion of whether Instagram even needs a messaging platform attached to it for now.

Cross-app communication

Instagram and Facebook Messenger have been attached at the hip for a few years now, with the former's DMs acting as threads in the latter's app. But in updates to two different support pages on Meta's various websites make it clear the cross-platform communication feature is going away.

In a statement to The Verge, spokesperson Alex Dziedzan tried to clarify things.

“A few years ago, we introduced a new Messenger experience in Instagram DMs which enabled people to message and call a FB account (Messenger) from an Instagram account and vice versa,” they said. “Starting in mid-December, we will begin removing this feature. However, people can continue to message and call their contacts on Facebook, Instagram or Messenger.”

This move comes three years after the 2020 merging of the two systems, and while some people will no doubt be disappointed to have to download an extra app, this was perhaps always a move that was in the cards.

Meta's Facebook Messenger is already in the crosshairs of the European Commission and the Digital Markets Act, after all. The DMA was designed to ensure that no one company has undue control over the services that European citizens use, and it has the power for force interoperability if it's deemed platforms are abusing their power. To that end, Apple could potentially be forced to open iMessage up, allowing it to work with third-party apps like WhatsApp.

Interestingly, Meta is already working to ensure WhatsApp can be used with other competing instant messaging platforms, while it argues that Messenger shouldn't be regulated as a "core platform service" under the same act. However, with Messenger and Instagram so tightly intertwined it could potentially have made it difficult for Meta to argue against opening Messenger up when it was already working with other apps like Instagram. 

A coincidence?

Is it a coincidence that Meta has chosen to rip Instagram and Messenger apart at a time when its messaging platforms are under scrutiny for the way they don't work with platforms offered by other companies? It's possible, but Meta knows all too well that it could invite scrutiny by having two of its products linked in ways that aren't available to other companies.

Threads, Instagram's competitor to X, didn't launch in the EU over concerns that it would fall foul of the DMA due to the fact an Instagram account was required, among other things. Threads is thought to be getting around that by removing the need to have a profile in order to access the platform this month, but it's clear Meta knows Europe's eyes are on it right now and delinking Instagram and Messenger might just make sense, all things considered.

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Oliver Haslam
Contributor

Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.

Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.