“WhatsApp Works on Chat Interoperability in Response to EU’s Digital Markets Act”

WhatsApp is reportedly in the early stages of developing a new feature that would enable chat interoperability, allowing users to communicate with individuals not using WhatsApp. This move is in response to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), set to take effect in Q1 2024, which mandates interoperability for major “gatekeeper” platforms like WhatsApp with users on other services.

The discovery of this feature was made by WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo within the latest beta version of the Android app. This potential chat interoperability feature may be housed in a new “Third-party chats” section within the app. As of now, this section is empty, indicating that it is in its early development stages.

This new section isn’t visible to users, and its appearance in the code of WhatsApp beta for Android suggests that it’s a work in progress. Specifics about how the feature will function upon completion are still unclear. It remains uncertain whether chats from third-party services will be integrated into the main chat list or if notifications for third-party apps will appear alongside regular WhatsApp chats.

Notably, Meta’s development of a third-party chat section within WhatsApp is taking place just six months before the EU’s DMA regulations on chat interoperability become enforceable in March 2024. These regulations will require platforms with 45 million monthly users in EU countries, or those meeting certain financial thresholds, to enable their users to chat with individuals on other messaging platforms.

However, the tight timeline presents challenges, as the regulations also demand end-to-end encryption for chats between services. Addressing these security and technical considerations may require a significant amount of time, especially given Meta’s ongoing efforts to merge messaging experiences across WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook, a project initiated in 2019 and still in progress over three years later.