You May Eventually Be Able to Send Messages Between Apps

If the EU has its way

  • The EU has proposed the Digital Markets Acts to enable people to freely message from one messaging service to another without switching clients.
  • Some security experts believe that exchanging messages across platforms will introduce security issues.
  • Others think the risks, which they believe developers can solve together, outweigh the benefits to the people using the platforms.
5 friends with smartphones, close up

Tim Robberts / Getty Images

Isn't it a hassle juggling multiple accounts just to keep in touch with friends and family on different messaging platforms? Imagine if you could use iMessage to text your friends on Discord!

The European Union (EU) feels our pain and is pushing new legislation called the Digital Markets Act (DMA) that'll make the developers of popular messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or iMessage, make changes to ensure their platforms work together and exchange messages with smaller apps. 

"The DMA is a total game-changer," Aron Solomon, chief legal analyst for digital marketing agency Esquire Digital, told Lifewire in an email exchange. "It's going to change some of the things that have bothered us as users for seemingly ever."

DMA to the Rescue

According to the EU’s press release, lawmakers intend to use the DMA to essentially break open the walled gardens of the largest messaging services, whom they’ve referred to as “gatekeepers.”

“Users of small or big platforms would then be able to exchange messages, send files or make video calls across messaging apps, thus giving them more choice,” read the release.

If it comes into force, the DMA could finally enable you, for instance, to use something like Telegram Messenger on your Android phone or PC to converse with your friend who uses iMessage on their iPhone.

Applauding the DMA, Solomon said it will limit the power of the gatekeepers who’ve monopolized the market, driving out smaller players and creating a much more level playing field.

“This will truly be a sea change in innovation, and we’re all going to feel it,” noted Solomon. He believes the DMA will help weed out the unfair advantages that tech giants have abused to lock users into their own closed ecosystem of products and services. In the long run, Solomon argued, the DMA will create an environment that’ll allow real innovation to flourish.

Ultimately, what some people in Big Tech are super afraid of isn’t change, it’s choice.

But the move hasn't been accepted by everyone, with some security experts claiming the proposal for exchanging messages between different platforms will weaken their end-to-end encryption guarantee. 

"Consider it however you like, but the point is that the proposed law requires the destruction of WhatsApp and iMessage end-to-end encryption in their current forms," tweeted well-known cybersecurity expert Alec Muffett

Alex Stamos, an adjunct professor at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, doesn't look at DMA favorably as well. "A cynic might say that this is a way to effectively outlaw E2EE while framing it as an antitrust move against tech," tweeted Stamos, adding that not implementing such a system will be challenging for the developers.

Encryption Prescription

However, Matthew Hodgson, co-founder of the Matrix project, which is working to create an open standard to facilitate interoperable communication, much like the one proposed by the DMA, points out that the critics have ignored the fact that the DMA explicitly mandates that all platforms must ensure that interoperability doesn’t expose the communication to security risks.

In a blog post, Hodgson acknowledged the challenges of implementing such a secure, interoperable communication system but argued that they are outweighed by benefits.

“We should be celebrating a new dawn for open access, rather than fearing that the sky is falling, and this is [a] nefarious attempt to undermine end-to-end encryption,” wrote Hodgson.

A mid adult woman enjoys a cup of coffee as she chats online with a group of female friends.

SDI Productions / Getty Images

Solomon, too, thinks the engineering challenge might be a blessing in disguise and could help iron out any security flaws in the messaging apps by bringing them to the forefront. "It's totally worth it if users of small platforms can now play in much larger sandboxes," shared Solomon.

The backlash against DMA reminds Solomon of the time the EU introduced the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Now considered one of the strongest privacy laws that has positively influenced tech companies' data collection practices around the globe, people feared the GDPR in the run up to its introduction in 2018.   

"The DMA will do the exact same thing because it's a massive potential stick that needs to exist because Big Tech doesn't respond well to carrots," shared Solomon. "Ultimately, what some people in Big Tech are super afraid of isn't change, it's choice."

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