Facebook’s combined messaging system won’t arrive this year

Facebook is reportedly working to combine Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram messaging into a single, unified platform, but don’t expect that system to hit anytime soon: CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that the project — “to whatever term we end up doing this” — would likely not show up until 2020 and beyond.

“The integration that we’re thinking about, we’re really early in thinking through this,” Zuckerberg said on the company’s Q4 earnings call. “There’s a lot more we need to figure out.”

While Zuckerberg wouldn’t provide too many details as to the actual plan for allowing Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp users to communicate, he did elaborate as to why the company is pursing it. As The New York Times had originally reported, end-to-end encryption plays a big part, and Facebook wants the secure messaging be consistent across all three platforms. “I think it’s the direction we should be going with with more things in the future.”

Zuckerberg also provided a few examples as to why users would want a combined service, highlighting awkward cases where someone might use the marketplace feature on Facebook, but then have to jump over to WhatsApp for messaging. He also highlighted the possibility that Messenger — and the combined WhatsApp / Instagram system — could serve as an iMessage-like layer for SMS that would offer more functionality and security.