WhatsApp Begins Work On Cross-Platform Messaging In Response To EU Regulation


Last week, the European Union (EU) announced that six major tech companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft, should be considered as gatekeepers under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). In a recent development, WhatsApp has introduced a new beta version featuring a dedicated screen called “third-party chats,” which marks the first implementation of the EU’s regulatory framework.

Key Takeaway

WhatsApp has responded to EU regulation by beginning work on cross-platform messaging interoperability. The EU named various tech giants, including WhatsApp’s parent company Meta, as gatekeepers subject to the Digital Markets Act. With a compliance deadline set for 2024, WhatsApp is set to enable users from other messaging apps to communicate seamlessly without creating additional user accounts.

The Introduction of “Third-Party Chats”

The beta version of WhatsApp’s Android app now includes a separate section called “third-party chats.” Although this section is currently empty, the concept behind it is to enable users to access a dedicated menu and view incoming messages from individuals using other messaging apps. This move aligns with the EU’s goal of promoting interoperability across messaging platforms.

Gatekeepers and Regulatory Categories

The EU categorized several companies as gatekeepers for their dominance in various core platform services. For example, Google offers multiple “intermediation” services, such as Google Maps, Google Play, and Google Shopping. Additionally, Google’s ads delivery system, web browser (Chrome), operating system (Android), search engine, and video sharing platform (YouTube) also fall under this classification.

Meta, formerly known as Facebook, falls into multiple categories due to its ownership of dominant social networks like Facebook and Instagram, as well as its intermediation service called Meta Marketplace and advertising platform. Notably, Meta holds a prominent position in the messaging apps category, which includes WhatsApp and Messenger.

Messaging Interoperability and Compliance

The EU’s regulatory framework requires gatekeepers to implement interoperability for messaging platforms. This means that users of Signal, Telegram, or Snapchat will be able to send messages to WhatsApp and Messenger users without having to create accounts on these platforms. In response to this requirement, WhatsApp’s development team has initiated work on interoperability to meet the compliance deadline of March 2024.

Challenges and Considerations for WhatsApp

While WhatsApp focuses on enabling interoperability, it faces challenges in implementing advanced features such as file sharing, video calls, and audio messages across third-party services. The platform also needs to ensure that end-to-end encryption functions smoothly with these third-party apps. Consequently, this marks the beginning of an intricate and technically significant project for WhatsApp.

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