Following a new Act passed by the European Union, messaging app developers could soon be forced as early as October this year to make their apps work together. The lawmakers at the EU agreed that the big messaging companies they refer to as “gatekeeper companies” i.e. WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and iMessage would have to make their apps “interoperable” with smaller messaging platforms at the developer’s request.
“During a close to 8-hour long trilogue (three-way talks between Parliament, Council and Commission), EU lawmakers agreed that the largest messaging services (such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage) will have to open up and interoperate with smaller messaging platforms, if they so request. Users of small or big platforms would then be able to exchange messages, send files or make video calls across messaging apps, thus giving them more choice. As regards interoperability obligation for social networks, co-legislators agreed that such interoperability provisions will be assessed in the future.”
While the law is not passed at the moment. Big companies like Meta and Apple would need to open up their platforms for the first time ever. Currently, only Apple’s iMessage app can send iMessages, but once the rule is passed, there will be nothing stopping a WhatsApp user on a PC from sending a message to a friend’s iMessage app on an iPhone.
It is not yet clear whether the big messaging companies would need to work together in achieving this, but coming from a security point of view, the implementation will need to be complex to ensure messages and other files being shared from one platform to another are properly encrypted.
The Verge thinks a staggered implementation system, with deadlines to meet along the way, makes for a more logical workaround that does not compromise the safety of users interacting with the apps.
” For example, gatekeepers may have just three months to make one-on-one messaging cross-compatible, but could be given two years to make group text messages interoperable or four years for audio or video calls. The clock starts ticking from when a smaller developer requests interoperability by a gatekeeper,” notes The Verge in an explainer on the staggered implementation.
Once the proposal passes, there are serious consequences for any company that fails to implement the message interoperability within the stipulated time. The EU can fine a company up to 10 percent of its global revenue, whereby the fine jumps to 20 percent for repeated infringements, and the EU is even able to prevent the company from making acquisitions if it is deemed to systematically break the rules.
Apple, which holds the iMessage app closely to its chest and also uses it as a marketing tool to lure potential customers into the iOS space, has already provided a statement showing where they stand regarding the EU’s decision.
“We remain concerned that some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users while others will prohibit us from charging for intellectual property in which we invest a great deal. We believe deeply in competition and in creating thriving competitive markets around the world, and we will continue to work with stakeholders throughout Europe in the hopes of mitigating these vulnerabilities,” Apple said in a statement regarding the new EU Act.