WhatsApp to get ready for cross-platform messaging in compliance with EU regulations

WhatsApp, the world’s most popular messaging app, is reportedly working on a new feature that will enable users to chat with anyone on any other messaging platform. The feature, called “Third-party chats”, is expected to be in line with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) that aims to regulate the tech giants and ensure fair competition in the digital market.

What is the Third-party chats feature?

According to WABetaInfo, a website that tracks the latest developments and features of WhatsApp, the Third-party chats feature is visible on the latest beta version of WhatsApp for Android (v2.23.19.8). However, the feature is not yet functional or accessible to the users. The website shared a screenshot of the feature, which shows a blank screen with the title “Third-party chats”.

WhatsApp to get ready for cross-platform messaging in compliance with EU regulations
WhatsApp to get ready for cross-platform messaging in compliance with EU regulations

The name of the feature suggests that it will allow WhatsApp users to communicate with users on different platforms without requiring them to download WhatsApp or create an account. For example, a WhatsApp user could send a message to a Telegram user or a Signal user directly from the app. This would make WhatsApp more interoperable and convenient for users who want to connect with people across different apps.

Why is WhatsApp working on this feature?

The development of the Third-party chats feature is likely a response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which was proposed in December 2020 and is expected to be enforced by March 2024. The DMA is a legislative initiative that aims to regulate the major tech companies, which the DMA refers to as “gatekeepers”. These gatekeepers are companies that have a significant influence on the internal market by controlling essential inputs or infrastructure, collecting and using data, or favoring their own products or services.

One of the obligations imposed by the DMA on the gatekeepers is to ensure interoperability with third-party communication services. This means that communication software such as WhatsApp must allow users to chat with users on other platforms and access their contact lists. The DMA also requires the gatekeepers to let users remove pre-installed apps or shop alternative app stores from their devices.

The DMA is intended to promote fair competition, innovation, and consumer choice in the digital market. It also aims to prevent the gatekeepers from abusing their dominant position and harming the interests of consumers, businesses, and society.

What are the implications of this feature?

The Third-party chats feature could have significant implications for WhatsApp and its users. On one hand, it could make WhatsApp more attractive and useful for users who want to communicate with people on different platforms without switching apps or creating multiple accounts. It could also enhance the security and privacy of WhatsApp users, as they could chat with users on more encrypted platforms such as Signal or Telegram.

On the other hand, it could also pose some challenges and risks for WhatsApp and its users. For instance, it could affect the quality and reliability of WhatsApp’s service, as it would depend on the performance and compatibility of other platforms. It could also expose WhatsApp users to more spam, scams, or malicious content from unknown or unverified sources. Moreover, it could reduce the loyalty and engagement of WhatsApp users, as they could have more options and alternatives to choose from.

When will this feature be available?

There is no official confirmation or announcement from WhatsApp or Meta (formerly Facebook) about the Third-party chats feature or its release date. However, based on the screenshot shared by WABetaInfo, it seems that WhatsApp is still in the early stages of developing and testing this feature. Therefore, it may take some time before this feature is rolled out to the public.

However, given that WhatsApp has to comply with the EU’s DMA by March 2024, it is likely that WhatsApp will launch this feature before that deadline. Until then, WhatsApp users will have to wait and see how this feature will work and what impact it will have on their messaging experience.

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