WhatsApp tests feature that could open it up to other messaging apps

It's reportedly preparing to comply with EU laws that require chat interoperability.

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The latest WhatsApp beta contains a new screen called Third-party chats that may allow it to work with other messaging apps, WaBetaInfo has reported. While the page is blank, its presence could signal that WhatsApp is getting such a feature ready in order to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA).

In July, the EU announced that seven tech giant "gatekeepers" with over $7.5 billion in turnover — Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, TikTok owner ByteDance, Meta, Microsoft and Samsung — must comply with all of the EU's new digital market rules. A key tenet of the DMA is that gatekeepers are prohibited from favoring their own services and must allow interoperability with third parties. Last week, the EU Commission designated key apps subject to the rules, including Meta's messaging apps, WhatsApp and Messenger.

That means Meta must make WhatsApp work with other third-party messaging apps like Signal and Telegram starting in March 2024. That will allow users of those apps to contact people on WhatsApp, even if they don't have a WhatsApp account — though WhatsApp users will supposedly be able to opt out. There's no news yet about what kind of features will be available with cross-messaging, though end-to-end encryption will supposedly be preserved, according to WaBetaInfo.

Apple's iMessage app isn't (yet) one of 22 key services mentioned under the DMA, so Google's dream of having Apple support RCS messaging may not happen soon. However, the App Store will be impacted. Apple is reportedly set to allow third-party app stores and sideloading in iOS 17, and both Microsoft and Epic Games are preparing their own stores for iOS mobile apps. We're likely to learn more about that tomorrow evening (September 12th) at Apple's iPhone 15 event, when it will take the wraps off of iOS 17.