Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) has confirmed that it will be changing the name of Instagram and WhatsApp to better reflect its ownership of the apps. Instagram will soon be known as “Instagram from Facebook” while WhatsApp will become “WhatsApp from Facebook.” The changes will be prominent in the App Store for people first downloading the apps, while the app’s name will remain the same on the homescreen of phones and tablets.
Facebook believes that many users of those apps don’t realize they are part of Facebook. Facebook bought Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014. Facebook spokeswoman Bertie Thomson said, “We want to be clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook.” Facebook has yet to say when the changes will go into effect.
The move is not completely unexpected. The company already uses the format for its collaboration tool Workplace. Facebook also did the same thing with its virtual reality-focused sub-division, Oculus.
What is surprising is that Facebook is making the change after it went to great lengths to allow Instagram and WhatsApp to operate as independent brands. After their acquisitions, Facebook allowed them to keep their CEOs, office buildings, and email addresses. The apps and their websites were never fully integrated into the Facebook family.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg changed that this year, starting with pushing out both companies’ founders and installing Facebook executives in their places. Zuckerberg also announced earlier this year that the apps’ messaging platforms would be merged into an encrypted version of Facebook Messenger. Employees working on the apps have complained about the loss of autonomy.
Last week, Facebook confirmed that both the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission are investigating the company for possible antitrust violations. One of the things the agencies is looking at is whether Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp and Instagram were anti-competitive. Critics of the purchases claim that the acquisitions were made to eliminate potential rivals.