What exactly is messaging interoperability all about? If you’re a tech startup looking to launch a new messaging app, you could create the most outstanding app imaginable, but it might struggle to gain traction because everyone you know uses WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, or iMessage. People tend to stick with the apps their friends and family use. This is the issue the European Union seeks to address with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This law is specifically targeted at tech giants considered dominant in their respective fields, requiring them to facilitate competition for startups.
In the case of messaging apps, these giants are mandated to provide “messaging interoperability.” This means that, for instance, a WhatsApp user should be able to exchange messages with a Facebook Messenger user. Companies affected by this law have six months to implement the required changes.
WhatsApp appears to be actively preparing to comply with these regulations, as evidenced by code found in its latest version. This code suggests the introduction of messaging interoperability through a feature referred to as “Third-Party Chats.” Although this section is still in development and not accessible to users, its title confirms WhatsApp’s commitment to working on this feature. Importantly, it’s understood that end-to-end encryption will be maintained even when exchanging messages between competing apps, which is a significant technical challenge.
Interestingly, Apple is currently resisting the notion that iMessage should be subject to the same antitrust laws, arguing that it doesn’t have a sufficient number of European users to warrant such regulation—an argument that might sound unlikely. If found not to be complying, Apple will probably be fined by the EU in the next months.