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WhatsApp prepares to play nice with other messaging apps

The Digital Markets Act's six-month compliance deadline will force WhatsApp to open itself up to other messaging apps soon.

Published onSeptember 11, 2023

Gmail stock photo from Dec 2021 3
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority
  • A new section on WhatsApp has been spotted, where chats from third-party apps will be housed. This section is not currently live, nor is it user-accessible.
  • However, this section could be the first step in complying with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.
  • Under this, gatekeeper platforms like WhatsApp must provide interoperability with other messaging services.

WhatsApp has continuously grown in popularity, especially in Southeast Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America. It’s easy to onboard new users onto the platform as it is tied to a phone number, and it is equally easy to find the rest of your social network on the platform. This accessibility has given WhatsApp unprecedented popularity. But it seems the platform will now be taking steps to open itself up to other messaging services as part of its compliance with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.

As spotted by WABetaInfo, WhatsApp is working on a new section within its app that will house “third-party chats.”

We don’t have any further information about this from within the app. But it is easy to take an educated guess on what this is. This appears to be the first step towards interoperability between messaging platforms.

The European Commission recently passed the Digital Markets Act that forces Big Tech companies to open up their products and makes it harder for them to capitalize as a monopoly. The Commission also recently marked several companies and their products as “gatekeeper platforms,” giving them six months to comply with these regulations.

Meta finds itself on this list for Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and others. This means that the company has to provide interoperability on these messaging services, opening them up to external players.

Users from other messaging services can send you messages on WhatsApp, allowing them to communicate with you without needing to install and sign up for WhatsApp. So, if someone strongly prefers a specific messaging app, interoperability will enable them to use that app to contact users who prefer another app.

This discourages platform lock-ins and promotes competition, allowing smaller players to compete in the space with their innovation without being monumentally disadvantaged by social inertia.

It remains to be seen how WhatsApp implements this feature while keeping up its promises of safety and encryption, as well as retaining compatibility with features like Communities. It is also unknown at this stage if this feature will extend to markets beyond Europe.

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