WhatsApp has reportedly been working on a groundbreaking feature that will enable chat interoperability. Owned by Meta, this messaging platform is making strides towards allowing users to communicate with those who are not on WhatsApp. This development aligns with the recent passage of the Digital Markets Act (DMA) by the European Union, set to take effect in the first quarter of 2024. Under the new EU regulation, WhatsApp and other major "gatekeeper" platforms are mandated to offer interoperability for chats with users on other services.
This exciting development was discovered by the WhatsApp feature tracker, WABetaInfo, in the latest beta version of the app for Android smartphones. The chat interoperability feature is expected to be housed in a dedicated Third-party Chats section within the app. Notably, this section is currently empty, indicating that the feature is still in its early stages of development.
While the new section for third-party chats remains hidden from users, WABetaInfo managed to uncover it in the code for WhatsApp beta for Android version 188.8.131.52. Details on how the feature will function upon completion remain scarce at this point. 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 coexist with regular WhatsApp chats.
It's essential to recognize that Meta's work on the third-party chats section for WhatsApp comes just six months before the EU's DMA regulations on chat interoperability come into force in March 2024. These regulations apply to platforms with a user base of 45 million monthly users in EU countries or those with a market capitalization of at least EUR 75 billion, or an annual turnover of at least EUR 7.5 billion in the EU. Compliance also necessitates end-to-end encryption for chats between services, which poses significant security challenges and could potentially prolong the process. Remarkably, Meta's plan to merge messaging experiences across WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook, facilitating cross-platform communication, is yet to be fully realized, despite being announced in 2019.