In a move signaling compliance with the European Union’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), WhatsApp is working on a version of its Android app that will allow users to chat with third-party apps. The feature, as reported by WABetaInfo, seems to be the first step toward enabling cross-platform messaging on WhatsApp.
Last week, the European Union named six major tech companies—Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft—as “gatekeepers” under the DMA. This legislation aims to regulate companies that exert significant influence over the digital market, laying down requirements that they must meet. These obligations include granting access to data for third-party developers, allowing users to uninstall pre-installed applications, and fostering interoperability between different messaging applications.
Why WhatsApp is Making Moves
Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, was listed as one of these gatekeepers. Following the EU’s announcement, the company appears to be acting swiftly to align with new regulations. According to WABetaInfo, “WhatsApp is working on complying with new EU regulations by developing support for chat interoperability, and it will be available in a future update of the app.”
Gatekeepers have until March 2024 to fully comply with the DMA. This means that the company’s teams are under the gun to ensure that WhatsApp can effectively communicate with other messaging apps, such as Signal, Telegram, and Snapchat, without requiring users to create a WhatsApp account.
Interestingly, Apple’s iMessage was not included as part of the core messaging services under the DMA. Apple argues that iMessage does not meet the 45 million-plus user threshold necessary for inclusion—at least not yet. While the absence of iMessage could stir debates, the fact that both Meta and Microsoft are preparing to establish their own mobile application marketplaces highlights the industry-wide ramifications of the new regulation.
Technical Challenges Ahead
The key challenge for WhatsApp is to establish interoperability while maintaining end-to-end encryption and other advanced features like file sharing, audio messages, and video calls. This move could potentially mark the beginning of a new era for digital communication, one where users aren’t tied down by platform limitations. But until then, Meta has a significant hurdle to overcome in meeting the March 2024 deadline.
As we move closer to a more integrated digital ecosystem, the DMA is not just an EU-centric development but a landmark legislative move with the potential to set a precedent for global digital markets. The upcoming months will be crucial for Meta and the other gatekeepers, as they work to align their services with the new European directives.