WhatsApp has been reportedly spotted working on a new feature that will allow for chat interoperability. The Meta-owned messaging service appears to be working on the ability to communicate with users who are not on WhatsApp. The European Union recently passed the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that goes into effect in the first quarter of 2024. Under the new EU regulation, WhatsApp and other major “gatekeeper” platforms and services are required to offer interoperability for chats with users on other services.
Spotted in development by WhatsApp feature tracker WABetaInfo on the latest beta version of the app for Android smartphones, the new chat interoperability feature could appear in a new Third-party chats section in the app. It also appears completely empty aside from the title at the top, which indicates that the feature is still in early stages of development.
The new section for third-party chats isn’t visible to users, and it appears that WABetaInfo managed to spot the feature in the code for WhatsApp beta for Android 126.96.36.199. Due to a lack of other information in the app’s code, it is currently unclear how the feature will work when development is completed, such as whether chats from third-party services will also be included in the main chat list, or whether notifications for third party apps will be displayed alongside regular WhatsApp chats.
It is worth noting that Meta’s development on a section for third-party chats on WhatsApp comes only six months before the EU’s DMA regulations on chat interoperability come into effect. Starting March 2024, platforms with 45 million monthly users in EU countries, or those with a market cap of at least EUR 75 billion (roughly Rs. 6,67,100 crore) — or an annual turnover of at least EUR 7.5 billion (roughly Rs. 66,710 crore) — in the EU, will have to offer their users the ability to chat with other messaging platforms and services.
However, this timeline appears to be rather short, as the regulations on chat interoperability also require chats between services to be protected by end-to-end encryption. Aside from introducing significant security challenges, the process could also take a significant amount of time — Meta announced in 2019 that it would merge the messaging experiences across WhatsApp, Instagram, and Facebook to allow users to contact each other, and the company is yet to fully roll out encrypted messaging across its own platforms over three years later.