Meta-owned WhatsApp is reportedly testing a new feature that will support chat interoperability with third-party messaging platforms so as to comply with the EU’s recently passed Digital Markets Act (DMA).
For those unaware, the DMA is a European Union (EU) regulation that aims to make the digital economy fairer and more contestable by keeping the major tech companies in check. It requires them to offer interoperability so that users can communicate across different apps. This reform will ensure that these platforms behave in a fair way online and promote more competition and choice, greater innovation, better quality, and lower prices.
According to a report from WABetaInfo, WhatsApp has added a new screen called “Third-party chats” in the latest WhatsApp beta for Android 22.214.171.124 update, hinting that it has already started working on making WhatsApp cross-platform compatible.
This new feature will allow users to receive and send texts from similar instant messaging apps other than WhatsApp, even if they don’t have a WhatsApp account.
“For example, someone from the Signal app could send a message to a WhatsApp user, even without a WhatsApp account,” states the WABetaInfo report.
The latest Android beta update follows the EU’s recently passed DMA, with the European Commission designated that WhatsApp qualifies as a “gatekeeper” due to its status as a large tech platform with a substantial user base, as well as it falls within the criteria set by the DMA.
As a consequence, WhatsApp now has six months, or until March 2024, to make its platform interoperable with third-party messaging apps to comply with obligations under the new DMA.
Meta-owned WhatsApp is known for its end-to-end encryption of messages. While the addition of third-party chats broadens communication, it raises concerns surrounding the security of messages received from third-party messaging platforms. It is suggested that WhatsApp would ensure that end-to-end encryption is preserved in interoperable messaging systems
According to Article 7 of the regulations, users have the option to opt out of the inter-app operability feature if they don’t want to use it.
Since the “Third-party chat” support feature is under development, technical details are still scarce. This feature is expected to be available in a future update of the app. There is also no clarity on whether WhatsApp support for third-party chats will be extended to countries beyond the EU.
The latest WhatsApp beta for Android 126.96.36.199 update is available on the Google Play Store.