Meta Outlines technical Requirements for Messaging Interoperability in Europe

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With the new E.U. anti-monopoly regulations coming into effect, Meta is now finalizing the last elements of its updates to Messenger and WhatsApp, which will enable E.U. users to send messages from other, non-Meta messaging services to its user inboxes.

As outlined on the Meta Engineering blog, Meta has now enabled its new systems to facilitate messaging interoperability, which will see messages from, say, Signal or Line coming into your WhatsApp or Messenger stream.

Though there are some fairly complex requirements.

First off, Meta says that that third-party providers looking to link into its systems will need to sign an agreement with Messenger and/or WhatsApp which will include strict requirements around that connection.

That’ll then give Meta legal grounding to remove that connection if a company violates its regulations, which will ensure that Meta has a level of control over exactly how these systems link into its messaging back-end.

Another key impediment here will be full end-to-end encryption (E2EE), with the new E.U. laws including provisions that make it a legal requirement that Meta does not weaken the security provided to its users. 

WhatsApp interoperability

As per Meta:

Messenger is still rolling out E2EE by default for personal communication, but on WhatsApp, this default has been the case since 2016. In both cases, we are using the Signal protocol as the foundation for these E2EE communications, as it represents the current gold standard for E2EE chats. In order to maximize user security, we would prefer third-party providers to use the Signal protocol. Since this has to work for everyone however, we will allow third-party providers to use a compatible protocol if they are able to demonstrate it offers the same security guarantees as Signal.”

So third-party platforms will have to offer equivalent data restriction and protection, which will be a big ask for some.

But the current regulations are essentially as open as they can be, with the E.U. Digital Markets Act (D.M.A.) aiming to ensure fair competition in the market, so that the incumbents cannot simply dominate, and force out smaller players.

I’m not so sure that the actual impact is going to align with that intention necessarily, but there’s also not a lot more that regulators can do to facilitate more equality.

Meta notes that it will begin by enabling 1:1 text messaging, image sharing, voice messages and videos from other apps, before expanding that to group chat functionality in the coming years.

It’ll be interesting to see exactly how E.U. users look to adopt this functionality, and whether it does lead to a rise in users sharing messaging between different platforms.

I suspect that it won’t, as the requirements will limit the full extent of this sharing, and most people already have established connection processes in place, which will see them already leaning on a messaging platform of choice.

But maybe, amid upcoming market shifts, there could be a change in user behaviors that will make this a more relevant consideration.

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