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Instagram and WhatsApp’s Link to Facebook Will Soon Be Crystal Clear

Business

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As the FTC takes a closer look at Facebook’s acquisitions over the years, the social networking giant is unashamedly labeling two of its biggest – and most successful – properties with the parent company’s name.

The sprawling and fragmented nature of the social media landscape can sometimes mean not everyone knows just how interconnected these platforms are. Facebook is eliminating some of the mystery in its latest move: appending “from Facebook” to the names of two of its strongest properties, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Facebook acquired these platforms in 2012 and 2014, respectively, but has thus far branded them independently. Now, those downloading the apps will be greeted with the affiliation placed front and center; the splash pages of each will also reflect the change. In a statement to The Information, a spokesperson for Facebook said, “we want to be clearer about the products and services that are a part of Facebook.” Given the timing of the change, however, it does present the question: for whom is this distinction important?

FastCompany’s Harry McCracken posits that the distance between Facebook and its rapidly growing properties should be considered an asset; where the parent company was dinged considerably in the face of its privacy scandals and roles in election fidelity, Instagram and WhatsApp managed to escape similar reputational challenges—despite facing similar hazards. “The distance has helped both apps avoid being tarnished by the [scandals] that have hurt Facebook.”

Further, the timing of the branding flourish is curious; in addition to confirming this change, Facebook also confirmed an FTC investigation into possible antitrust violations. Would visible markers of its expansive empire be wise to make during such an investigation? Or is the transparency designed to show a sense of self-awareness in hopes of garnering leniency?

There’s also a case to be made for vanity as a motivation; several sources have reported that the “by Facebook” addendum simply makes the size of Zuckerberg’s empire more visible. Rumblings have surfaced that the founder wants more credit for the rise of the two apps, credit that has clearly evaded him if the results of two 2018 studies from DuckDuckGo are to be believed; more than half of American adults didn’t know that Instagram or WhatsApp were owned by Facebook.

Whatever the reason for the change, it’ll be taking effect in the weeks to come. With it, will come something the company’s long been promising to its users (albeit to varying results): transparency. As UK’s Evening Standard noted, “it is concerning that people aren’t aware of who owns the platforms they are regularly using to share information about themselves.” In that regard, Facebook is taking a surprising step forward to provide some much requested and much-needed clarity.

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