The European Union plans to break down the barriers between mobile messaging services. With its Digital Markets Act, it plans to force services like iMessage, WhatsApp, and smaller messaging platforms to play nicely together.
The move would be a major blow to Apple, which has long used iMessage — which it refuses to bring to Android — as a big selling point of iPhone.
The EU cracks down on messaging
The Digital Markets Act (DMA) is the EU’s biggest and most ambitious attempt to break up the power held by big companies — such as Apple, Google, Meta, and Microsoft — for a fairer and more balanced technology market.
Rather than tackling each antitrust issue individually, like in the past, the EU plans to use the DMA to enforce sweeping changes that will address the most prominent issues across the entire industry.
On Thursday, the EU decided that the barriers between messaging platforms is one of those issues. And it wants to do something about it.
Apple may have to open up iMessage
After an eight-hour discussion, EU lawmakers agreed “that the largest messaging services (such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or iMessage) will have to open up and interoperate with smaller messaging platforms.”
“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,” the European Parliament announced in a press release.
That would mean that iPhone users who decide they want to switch to Android will no longer lose iMessage benefits. Although they may not have an official iMessage app, they’ll be able to take part in iMessage conversations.
It would also allow iPhone owners who use Windows PCs and tablets to continue their iMessage conversations on other devices — something you can only do right now if you pair your iPhone with a Mac or iPad.
It’s not law yet
It’s worth noting that the DMA isn’t law just yet. The EU said on Thursday that the legal text still needs to be finalized “at a technical level.” After that, the DMA will need to be approved by Parliament and Council.
However, the EU seems confident it the DMA will move forward. “Once this process is completed, it will come into force 20 days after its publication in the EU Official Journal and the rules will apply six months after,” it said.
During a press conference on Friday morning, EU vice president Margrethe Vestager said she expects the DMA to take effect “sometime in October.”
‘A new era of tech regulation’
“The agreement ushers in a new era of tech regulation worldwide,” added rapporteur Andreas Schwab. “The Digital Markets Act puts an end to the ever-increasing dominance of Big Tech companies.”
“The new rules will help enforce that basic principle. Europe is thus ensuring more competition, more innovation and more choice for users.”
In addition to messaging interoperability, the DMA will give consumers the right to uninstall preloaded software they don’t want, and it will prevent companies from prioritizing their own platforms and services over third-party alternatives.
It also states that platform owners, including Apple, can not force app developers to “use certain services (e.g. payment systems or identity providers) in order to be listed in app stores.”
Apple CEO Tim Cook believes the DMA “would destroy the security of the iPhone.”