Facebook’s push towards making its services interoperable is taking shape, as the company announced it was testing a unified ‘Accounts Centre’ to control login and other activity on Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger — but not WhatsApp — from a single platform. Among other things, users will be able to log-in to the three apps from the single platform, and cross-post content. Facebook is pitching the unified platform as an easy way to manage your profiles on the three platforms, but in reality, it can possibly help the company in better targeting ads at users, especially those with a different identity on Facebook and Instagram (more on that below). MediaNama couldn’t access the service at the time of publication, but Facebook said it will start rolling out this week.

“Switching apps to post the same content or entering your credit card information dozens of times is a pain. We want to make that easier while giving you better controls to manage your experience. Whether you want to share a story to Instagram and Facebook at the same time, or use your Facebook account to log into Instagram, setting up your Accounts Center will allow you to control connected experiences that work across our apps,” said Oren Hod, product manager at Facebook.

Users can use the unified platform as a single sign on to Facebook, Instagram, and Messenger. It will also allow users to cross post content across Facebook and Instagram, including stories and posts. The company also clarified that it is not necessary for a user to have the same identity across its apps for them to be able to use Accounts Centre. However, users can choose to sync their name and profile photo across the three apps. “That way, if you change your name or your profile photo on Facebook, it will update on Instagram as well. If you change your mind, you can stop your name and profile photos from syncing going forward,” the company said.

Source: Facebook blog

Later this year, the company will also add Facebook Pay to the Accounts Centre where users in the US, could use that information to shop on Facebook and Instagram. Facebook Pay is not available in India.

Extensive data collection: Facebook also shed light on how it uses data from its multiple offerings to show users more targeted ads, among other things. “We use information across our apps to personalize your experience and show you more relevant content, including ads. Setting up and using Accounts Center won’t change that,” Facebook said. It said that it will continue to use information across the three apps when a user sets up their Accounts Centre. We’ll also use your information to personalize experiences across accounts, like suggested friends and accounts to follow.

This suggests that even if you use different identities on Facebook’s social platforms, the Accounts Centre can possibly help the company in determining what ads to target at you since it will then be able to track you on the other platforms as well, and treat your different identities as a single identity.

Facebook’s push towards interoperability

The company has, on a number of occasions, expressed its desire to make all its apps interoperable. It has already started merging several of its applications together. For instance, Instagram Stories can be cross-posted to Facebook, and last month, it started integrating DMs for Instagram and Messenger, albeit for a handful of users.

However, amid this push towards interoperability, one important platform — WhatsApp — has been missing. WhatsApp is an end-to-end-encrypted messaging service, whereas Facebook, Instagram or Messenger are not. This could be a possible reason why the company hasn’t been able to integrate it with its other services. For now, the only hint of interoperability that is present on WhatsApp (using the web app) is the ability to start a video call on Messenger Rooms, which is Facebook’s video conferencing service.

Earlier this year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg had hinted of Facebook’s plans to integrate its messaging platforms. “Our texting apps today are primarily still texting,” he said during a call with investors in January , and added that the company is planning to build out an infrastructure so that WhatsApp and Messenger can evolve into platforms where “you can hang out and feel more present with people, where you can connect to different groups in different ways, interact with businesses and do payments and commerce”.

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