A beta update to WhatsApp for Android (version 18.104.22.168) that came out today contains a new screen called Third Party Chats, reports WABetaInfo. For now, the screen is not functional or accessible to users, according to WABetaInfo. But its title is a strong hint that this is probably the first step in opening up Meta’s encrypted messaging 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 the communications software as WhatsApp interoperates with third-party messaging apps by March 2024. WABetaInfo tweeted a screenshot from the screen:
The objective of the DMA, according to the European Commission Frequently asked questions about the law, is to prevent gatekeepers from “imposing unfair conditions” and “ensure the opening of important digital services.” Beyond dictating that messaging apps must interoperate, the DMA requires gatekeepers to, among other things, allow users to remove pre-installed apps or purchase 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 standards of the new regulation.