Under the EU’s Digital Markets Act, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are recognized as “gatekeeper” services and are required to provide interoperability by March 2024.
According to reports, WhatsApp has been seen developing a new feature that will enable chat interoperability. The messaging software, which is owned by Meta, appears to be developing the capability to interact with people who do not use WhatsApp. The Digital Markets Act (DMA), which was recently ratified by the European Union, will take effect in the first quarter of 2024. WhatsApp and other significant “gatekeeper” platforms and services are required to provide interoperability for discussions with users of other services under the new EU rule.
The new chat interoperability feature was discovered in development by WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo on the most recent beta version of the app for Android handsets. The functionality might show up in a new Third-party chats section in the app. Aside from the title at the top, it also looks to be completely empty, which suggests that the feature is still in the early phases of development.
The empty third-party chat section on WhatsApp spotted by the feature tracker
Users can’t see the new section for third-party chats, but WABetaInfo appears to have found it in the WhatsApp beta for Android 126.96.36.199 code. It is currently unknown how the feature will operate once development is complete, including whether chats from third-party services will also be included in the main chat list or whether notifications for third-party apps will be displayed alongside regular WhatsApp chats, due to a lack of other information in the app’s code.
It’s important to note that only six months remain until the EU’s DMA legislation on chat interoperability take effect until Meta develops a section for third-party talks on WhatsApp. Platforms with 45 million monthly users in the EU or those with a market cap of at least EUR 75 billion (roughly Rs 6,67,100 crore) or an annual turnover of at least EUR 7.5 billion (roughly Rs 66,710 crore) in the EU will be required to provide their users with the option to chat with other messaging platforms and services as of March 2024.
The regulations on chat interoperability also mandate that discussions between providers be secured by end-to-end encryption, thus this timescale appears to be very short. The process could take a long time, in addition to posing significant security challenges. For example, three years after announcing plans to combine the messaging services of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp to enable user contact, Meta has yet to fully implement encrypted messaging across all of its own platforms.