Facebook plans to integrate its messaging services on Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messengers, The New York Times reported on Friday.

Four unidentified people involved in the effort to integrate the services said the three services will continue to operate as stand-alone apps, but the underlying messaging infrastructure of the three apps will be unified. “Facebook is still in the early stages of the work and plans to complete it by the end of this year or in early 2020,” they said.

Facebook told BBC that it was at the start of a “long process”. The merger could mean that, for example, a user on Facebook could send a message to someone who only has a WhatsApp account.

Facebook founder and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has directed that all the messaging apps should have WhatsApp’s end-to-end encryption incorporated.

Facebook, in a statement to the US newspaper, said it wanted to “build the best messaging experiences we can; and people want messaging to be fast, simple, reliable and private.” It said the company was working on making more of its messaging services “end-to-end encrypted and considering ways to make it easier to reach friends and family across networks.”

Bringing together the three services is in contrast to Zuckerberg’s previous approach to WhatsApp and Instagram. When Facebook had acquired the two companies, they were promised autonomy from its parent company.

One person involved in integrating the services told The New York Times that Zuckerberg now believed that integration will benefit Facebook’s entire “family of apps” over the long term.

According to the report, the effort to bring the three services together had caused “internal strife”. Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger resigned in September, while WhatsApp’s founders Jan Koum and Brian Acton, had left the company in May and November 2017 because of clashes over data privacy concerns.