By the end of 2022, you might be able to use iMessage to talk to your pals on WhatsApp.
That’s one of the many implications of the new Digital Markets Act, a piece of legislation European Union member states agreed to on Friday in the European Parliament. While a final version of the DMA is still yet to be cemented into law via a vote among the EU countries, the expectation seems to be that it will pass and could go into effect as early as October of this year.
The basic gist of the bill is that big tech companies like Meta, Google, and Apple (or any other company with a market cap of at least 75 million euros and 45 million monthly European users) can’t give too much special treatment to their own apps on a customer’s device. For example, if you get a new iPhone, Safari may not be the default browser anymore. You can still set it as the default if you prefer that, but you’ll have more say in the matter at the initial setup.
Beyond that, messaging services like iMessage, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger will have interoperability between each other. This is pure speculation, but maybe, just maybe, this could be the first domino to fall in ending the horrible blue text/green text segregation between iOS and Android users. We can pray for that, anyway.
Any company that breaks these rules risks a fine of as much as 10 percent of their global revenues the first time and 20 percent the second time. After a third infraction, the EU could step in and at least threaten something as severe as breaking up the company.
That sounds like a pipe dream, but for what it’s worth, the EU has been just about the only regulatory body on the planet to make big tech companies do anything for the greater good in recent years. The General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR) law, signed in 2018, ensured that tech companies operating in Europe had to do things like notify users of data breaches, ask for consent to track data (like when a website asks if you’re OK with cookies), and give people the ability to delete their data from existence if they request it.
On the other hand, tech companies have also shown in the past that they’ll make region-specific exceptions in the way they operate. The California Consumer Privacy Act, signed in 2018, places limits on how companies can gather and sell user data. But instead of prompting a nationwide shift, the CCPA has prompted companies to carve out an exception and process — here an example from Sirius XM — for managing user data in California.
And since it’s not really worth the time or resources to make special versions of apps just for Europe, users in places like the U.S. wound up getting all of those benefits, too. If the DMA becomes reality, don’t be surprised if suddenly you start getting Facebook messages in your iMessage inbox.