In a recent beta update for WhatsApp on Android (version 18.104.22.168), a mysterious screen named “Third-party chats” has surfaced, as reported by WABetaInfo. While this screen is currently non-functional and inaccessible to users, its very existence strongly suggests that Meta, the parent company of WhatsApp, is taking steps towards making its encrypted messaging app compatible across different platforms.
📝 WhatsApp beta for Android 22.214.171.124: what's new?
WhatsApp is working on complying with new EU regulations by developing support for chat interoperability, and it will be available in a future update of the app!https://t.co/XI6zMoOD5P pic.twitter.com/Jpd9Leh2Ki
— WABetaInfo (@WABetaInfo) September 10, 2023
The appearance of the “Third-party chats” screen in the WhatsApp beta is significant, signalling Meta’s intent to enhance cross-platform communication. Although users cannot interact with it yet, it paves the way for potential advancements in how WhatsApp interacts with other messaging platforms. The EU especially has been hammering on compatibility in tech from phone chargers to how apps interact with each other across the EU.
The timing of this beta update is notable, coming shortly after the European Commission’s confirmation that Meta qualifies as a “gatekeeper” under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). This designation places obligations on communication software providers like WhatsApp to enable interoperability with third-party messaging apps by March 2024.
Opening Up Digital Services
The DMA’s primary objective, as outlined in the European Commission’s FAQ, is to prevent gatekeepers from imposing unfair conditions and to ensure the openness of essential digital services. In addition to mandating interoperability for messaging apps, the DMA requires gatekeepers to allow users to uninstall pre-installed apps and access alternative app stores.
Both Meta and Microsoft are responding to the DMA by planning their own mobile app stores. This move reflects the changing landscape of digital services in Europe, as regulators aim to create a more competitive and open environment for consumers.
The European Commission is also actively investigating whether Apple’s iMessage and various Microsoft services, including Bing search, Edge browser, and advertising, meet the criteria set by the new regulation. This scrutiny underscores the EU’s commitment to enforcing the DMA and fostering fair competition in the digital marketplace.
As Meta teases cross-platform compatibility through the WhatsApp beta, it’s evident that the company is adapting to evolving regulatory demands. The outcome of these changes will not only shape the future of WhatsApp but also influence the broader landscape of digital communication and services in Europe. Stay tuned as we continue to follow these developments closely.