A beta version of WhatsApp shows a new screen for third-party chats suggesting that WhatsApp is working on cross-platform messaging, WABetaInfo, which tracks beta versions of WhatsApp, said in a blog post published on September 10.
“Since it is still in development, this section is still not ready, it appears empty and it’s not accessible to users, but its title confirms to us that they are now working on it,” the portal added.
The feature was spotted on WhatsApp beta for Android 220.127.116.11. While some Beta features might not see the light of day, there is a high probability that this one will thanks to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).
The DMA requires large platforms, designated as gatekeepers, to make their core platforms interoperable with competitors, meaning they will have to offer users the ability to communicate with each other using different apps. For example, a WhatsApp user should be able to receive messages sent from Facebook Messenger, Signal, or any other third-party messaging app even if the sender doesn’t have a WhatsApp account.
Just last week, Meta was designated as a gatekeeper and WhatsApp was designated as a core platform service. Meta’s Messenger and Instagram were also classified as core platform services under the Act. For a full list of gatekeeper and core platform services, check out this post here.
We can expect WhatsApp to launch its cross-platform messaging before March 2024, which is when the obligations under the DMA go into effect.
However, the feature could be limited to the European Union as there is no regulatory requirement to allow interoperability in other regions. It also remains to be seen which third-party messaging apps are supported.
As for concerns around privacy and security from interoperability, “as this feature is still in its early stages of development, detailed technical information about this process on WhatsApp as a gatekeeper is currently very limited, but we can confirm that end-to-end encryption will have to be preserved in interoperable messaging systems,” WABetaInfo noted.
Interoperability was seen as a way to break Apple’s ecosystem effect as many iOS users are unwilling to shift to Android because of the lack of iMessage support in the latter. This has created a lock-in effect, which some have seen as anticompetitive. However, the DMA might not apply to iMessage as the European Commission is still investigating whether or not iMessage fits the criteria. Apple Apple has submitted arguments that iMessage is not popular enough in the EU to fall under the DMA.
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