A WhatsApp for Android beta update (version 18.104.22.168) that came out today contains a new screen called Third-party chats, reports WABetaInfo. For now, the screen is neither functional nor accessible by users, according to WABetaInfo. But its title is a strong clue that this is likely the first step to opening Meta’s encrypted messages app to cross-platform compatibility.
The beta comes just days after the European Commission confirmed that WhatsApp owner Meta meets the definition of a “gatekeeper” under the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which requires communication software like WhatsApp to interoperate with third-party messaging apps by March 2024. WABetaInfo tweeted a screenshot of the screen:
The DMA’s goal, per the European Commission’s FAQ about the law, is to keep gatekeepers “from imposing unfair conditions” and to “ensure the openness of important digital services.” Beyond dictating that messaging apps must interoperate, the DMA requires that gatekeepers, among other things, let users remove pre-installed apps or shop alternative app stores.
Both Meta and Microsoft are planning their own mobile app stores in response to the DMA. The European Commission is investigating whether Apple’s iMessage and Microsoft’s Bing search engine, Edge browser, and advertising service meet the bar for the new regulation.