What you need to know
- WhatsApp will be required to make its platform interoperable under the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.
- In an interview with Wired, an engineering director for WhatsApp described how support for third-party messages could work.
- The feature is currently in testing, and plans will be announced in March. WhatsApp will have “several months” after that to roll out the new feature.
WhatsApp has been figuring out how to make its app work with other messaging services for a while, and today, an engineering director for the app detailed its plan to do so. Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, will have to make the platform interoperable under the European Union’s new Digital Markets Act.
Meta was designated as a gatekeeper under the DMA, and WhatsApp a core platform service. Among other things, these designations mean that Meta must make WhatsApp work with other messaging services for the sake of competition. In an interview with Wired published Tuesday, WhatsApp engineering director Dick Brouwer explained what interoperability on the platform could look like.
“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,” said Brouwer.
He also emphasized how users should be able to choose whether to use WhatsApp with third-party messaging services or keep enjoying the status quo. Google and Apple have both made similar points in their compliance strategies for the DMA.
“One of the core requirements here, and this is really important, is for users for this to be opt-in,” Brouwer explained. “I can choose whether or not I want to participate in being open to exchanging messages with third parties. This is important, because it could be a big source of spam and scams.”
As we’ve seen in developer WhatsApp versions in the past, Brouwer confirms that third-party messages will show up in a separate part of the app from the main inbox. The third-party chat inbox is the name that has been thrown around, but we don’t know what WhatsApp will call it.
Interoperability will be somewhat limited, at least at the start. It’ll only work with messages between two people, so group chats are ruled out. The interoperability also covers chats specifically, not calls. However, both of those features are slated to come years later.
For now, the DMA is focusing on texts, images, voice messages, videos, and attached files.
Meta wants integrated apps to use the Signal Protocol, which is used by Signal, Meta messaging apps, Google Messages, and Skype. Third-party apps will connect to WhatsApp’s own servers to receive messages. For sending messages, Wired reports that “third-party apps will need to encrypt content using the Signal Protocol and then package it into message stanzas in the eXtensible Markup Language (XML).”
Although the DMA’s rules are set to take effect next month, it looks like WhatsApp will have more time to comply. WhatsApp will provide more details in March but will not have to implement it for “several months.”