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Here's how WhatsApp will work with other messaging apps

Expect a new inbox option for third-party chat apps, for starters.
By
February 7, 2024
WhatsApp stock photo from Dec 2021 7
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
TL;DR
  • WhatsApp has revealed how it’ll work with other encrypted messaging apps.
  • The company says cross-app messaging will be an opt-in affair, citing spam concerns.
  • WhatsApp will also offer a dedicated inbox for messages from third-party apps.

New European Union (EU) laws mean that WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have been designated as gatekeeper services. This means they’ll need to be interoperable with other messaging apps, and we’ve now got a better idea of how this will work.

WhatsApp engineering director Dick Brouwer outlined how cross-app messaging will work in an interview with Wired. For starters, Brouwser says cross-app support will be opt-in.

The Meta employee explained why WhatsApp’s interoperable chats won’t be enabled by default:

I can choose whether or not I want to participate in being open to exchanging messages with third parties. This is important, because it could be a big source of spam and scams.

WhatsApp users who enable cross-app messaging will see a separate “third-party chats” inbox at the top of their Chats menu. Brouwer reasoned that a separate inbox was necessary because WhatsApp can’t promise the same level of security and privacy as native messages.

Messaging apps that want to be interoperable with WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger will need to sign an agreement with Meta and follow the company’s terms. Furthermore, Brouwer says Meta would like other apps to use the Signal encryption protocol, in line with its own apps. He adds that third-party apps will need to connect to WhatsApp’s servers in order for you to receive messages from them.

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However, Brouwer adds that third-party apps can use a different protocol if it meets WhatsApp’s security standards. Additionally, third-party apps can use a proxy between the WhatsApp servers and their own apps, although he acknowledges the security risks of this approach.

You might not want to hold your breath for WhatsApp and interoperable chats to gain new features at a similar pace. The Meta employee says they don’t believe “interop chats and WhatsApp chats can evolve at the same pace,” claiming that it was “harder to evolve an open network.”