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Meta Just Quietly Dropped Some Major Changes to Messenger

The instant chat feature will look different to most users starting on Jan. 23.
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Of all the wild changes Mark Zuckerberg has made to Facebook and his various Meta  (META) - Get Free Report ventures, his most recent tweak may not initially go as noticed. 

But it carries implications for everyone who uses the popular online instant chat app Messenger. 

Until 2014, Facebook users could chat directly with each other while logged into their Facebook account or app. But Facebook removed that ability in an effort to drive users to its standalone Messenger app, which the company had been developing since 2011. 

Also in 2014, Meta acquired instant messenger WhatsApp -- indicating the company's concerted effort to corner the already-massive messaging industry and perfect it under one roof. 

After nine years and billions of newly acquired users and revenue, the company has addressed a key concern: privacy. (Antitrust allegations remain a thorn in the tech giant's proverbial side.)

Meta Changed Some Key Messenger Privacy Features

On Jan. 23, Meta announced it would be testing end-to-end encryption on Messenger for some users. End-to-end encryption restricts data and other sensitive information between its owner and whomever its owner is communicating with. This shields the information from third parties and potential hackers. 

Of the rollout, Meta said: 

Over the next few months, more people will continue to see some of their chats gradually being upgraded with an extra layer of protection provided by end-to-end encryption. We will notify people in these individual chat threads as they are upgraded. We know people will have questions about how we select and upgrade individual threads, so we wanted to make clear that this is a random process. It’s designed to be random so that there isn’t a negative impact on our infrastructure and people’s chat experience. This also ensures our new end-to-end encrypted threads continue to give people the fast, reliable and rich experience on Messenger.

Meta's WhatsApp already uses end-to-end encryption, so long as both users are communicating on the platform. Google's  (GOOG) - Get Free Report Gmail said in Dec. 2022 that it would begin rolling out the technology. Apple's  (AAPL) - Get Free Report iMessage and FaceTime have been using it for years. 

Other Messenger Features Are Coming

In addition to the new security features, Messenger will get also get some aesthetic upgrades. Chats can now be customized with new themes and colors. Users can also create bespoke emojis and reactions, display their activity status, choose group profile photos for multi-person chats, and preview links. 

"Launching more features for end-to-end encrypted chats for Messenger today – link previews, custom emojis, themes, etc," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post. "We're ramping up testing default end-to-end encryption for more people in Messenger too."