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WhatsApp is preparing to roll out third-party chat support

Date 08 Feb, 2024

Writen by Ivan Mehta

A month away from the Digital Markets Act (DMA) deadline, WhatsApp is preparing to allow other messaging networks in its app.

In an interview with Wired, Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp, said that the company is ready to offer interoperability on the platform with over 2 billion users.

“There’s real tension between offering an easy way to offer this interoperability to third parties whilst at the same time preserving the WhatsApp privacy, security, and integrity bar. I think we’re pretty happy with where we’ve landed,” he told the publication.

The EU agreed upon including messaging interoperability under DMA in 2022. This rule mandates gatekeepers like WhatsApp and Messenger to open up their services to other chat apps.

Meta is also working to add support for other chat apps to Messenger. Initially, these experiences will focus on one-on-one chats where people can send text, audio, video, images and files across apps. As WABetaInfo reported before, this experience will live in a new sub-menu on top of the inbox called “Third-party chats.”

Brouwer, who worked on rolling out end-to-end encryption for Messenger last year, told Wired that this will be an opt-in experience to avoid spam and scams.

“I can choose whether or not I want to participate in being open to exchanging messages with third parties. This is important, because it could be a big source of spam and scams,” he said.

Companies that want to be be interoperable with Meta’s system will have to sign an agreement, details of which are not public yet. WhatsApp will require end-to-end encryption to enable interoperability. However, Apple’s recently announced changes to the App Store could serve as an indicator that the terms might not be straightforward.

Recently, open source messaging protocol Matrix’s founder Matthew Hodgson noted at a talk that it has worked with WhatsApp on an “experimental” basis to make the protocol work with end-to-end encryption intact.

It’s not clear if other operators like Telegram, Viber and Google are planning to add interoperability support with WhatsApp.

Brouwer told Wired that third-party chats and WhatsApp native chats might not reach feature parity as interoperability could open up new privacy and security issues.

Apps that bring in multiple messaging services under one umbrella has been in the spotlight for the last few months. Last October, WordPress.com owner Automattic bought Texts.com for $50 million. Pebble smartwatch founder Eric Migicovsky’s Beeper has been in conversation for its effort — which Apple shut down — to bring iMessage to Android phones.

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