As the clock ticks towards the enforcement of the European Union’s (EU) Digital Markets Act (DMA), WhatsApp is now making significant strides towards enabling integration with other messaging networks within its platform. In other words, WhatsApp may soon allow people to message you from another app.
Not that the development itself is surprising, given that the impending enforcement of the DMA has accelerated WhatsApp’s interoperability efforts, aligning with the EU’s mandate for digital gatekeepers to open their services to other messaging apps. Initial interoperability functionalities between WhatsApp and Messenger is set to encompass text messaging, image sharing, voice messages, videos, and file transfers, according to media reports. Notably, WhatsApp has adopted an opt-in approach, allowing users to choose whether to participate in cross-platform messaging to mitigate potential risks associated with spam and scams. Once this comes to pass, WhatsApp will have to cross additional hurdles, including logistical and technical hurdles, and ensure interoperability in calls and group chats (over time).
The implications of WhatsApp’s decision to enable interoperability with other messaging networks ahead of the EU deadline are many. For one, this will allow WhatsApp users to communicate seamlessly with individuals on other messaging platforms without the need to switch apps. This streamlined experience will simplify cross-platform communication. Furthermore, by opening its platform to third-party apps, WhatsApp fosters competition in the messaging market. This move creates opportunities for smaller messaging platforms to gain traction and innovate, ultimately benefiting consumers through increased choice and diversity in messaging services. The fact that it aligns with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to promote fairness and competition in digital markets, is simply a bonus.
In an interview with Wired, Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp, unveiled the platform’s ambitious plan to introduce interoperability, aiming to cater to its extensive user base exceeding 2 billion individuals worldwide. Once the interoperability is available, users who opt in will be able to see messages from other apps in a separate section at the top of their inbox.
This development has also been long in the making – recent years have seen WhatsApp make headway into letting other messaging apps to plug themselves into its service and let people chat across apps. “There’s real tension between offering an easy way to offer this interoperability to third parties whilst at the same time preserving the WhatsApp privacy, security, and integrity bar,” Brouwer said. “I think we’re pretty happy with where we’ve landed.”