You may have seen a news report about Facebook being sued for using a “buy or bury” strategy to snap up rivals and keep smaller competitors at bay. This may lead to Facebook being forced to sell its prized assets WhatsApp and Instagram. I have never used Instagram, which is described as a photo and video social networking service, but I did start using WhatsApp just over a year ago to keep in touch with members of my local Green Party. WhatsApp is an instant messaging (IM) app that was acquired by Facebook in 2014 for 19 billion dollars. Facebook already had its own IM system called simply “Messenger” – there is a Messenger App for mobile devices as well as an interface in the Facebook social networking website that allows users to send and receive messages in the browser.
As an aside, I have spent a scary amount time on Facebook since I joined about 12 years ago, so when I got my first smartphone just over 3 years ago I made a point of never using it to go on Facebook, limiting myself to just using Facebook on my iMac at home. Even so, in July last year I decided to take a break and deactivated my Facebook account. Even with my account deactivated I was still able to send and receive messages using the Messenger App on my phone. In April this year I reactivated my account, partly because a number of people told me they missed seeing my posts, and now I am probably spending at least as much time on it as I was before the break.
As an Apple user the IM platform I use most is neither WhatsApp nor Messenger but Apple’s own iMessage system which allows encrypted iMessages to be sent to another iPhone or Mac. However, if you use it to send to a non-Apple phone it still works, by falling back to an old school SMS message. There are of course many other IM platforms – see the list on this instant messaging article at Wikipedia.