The European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), adopted in March, has established an interoperability requirement for messaging platforms for large platforms of this type. According to the DMA, large messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Apple’s iMessage must open up to smaller platforms if these smaller platforms request it. The European Commission recently released an update to its FAQ on the implementation of this measure, detailing the details of this interoperability.
According to the Commission, access controllers (such as Apple’s iMessage) must ensure that the basic functions of messaging will be interoperable as of the entry into force of the DMA, such as text messages between two competing messaging platforms. The deadline for interoperability of more complex functions, such as audio and video calls, may be up to four years and will be activated progressively. Small platforms that are not access controllers do not have the interoperability requirement and are free to choose whether or not to benefit from this openness.
Interoperability of messaging is a key issue for European legislators, who want to promote competition and innovation in the messaging platform sector. By opening up large platforms to smaller ones, legislators hope to encourage the creation of new platforms and promote diversity in the sector. This should also allow users of messaging platforms to communicate more easily between different platforms, improving their user experience.
That also raises many technical and security questions. In order to be interoperable, messaging platforms must be able to communicate with each other and exchange data securely. This requires a certain level of standardization and compatibility between different platforms, which can be difficult to implement.
The European Commission has therefore specified that platforms must ensure the integrity of their services, security, and encryption that must not be reduced. It has also specified that users will be able to accept or refuse to share a message or launch an audio or video call from one messaging platform to another, adding some complexity to the implementation of this interoperability.
It is possible that some players in the messaging platform sector will be reluctant to open their platform to competition. This may be particularly true for large platforms that have managed to establish themselves on the market and may be tempted to protect their dominant position. This is why the DMA provides for sanctions for companies that do not respect the interoperability rules.
It is a complex issue that raises both technical and security questions, as well as competition concerns. The European Commission’s recent update to its FAQ provides some additional details on the implementation of this measure, but there is still much to be clarified on this topic. The DMA’s interoperability requirements are set to come into effect at the beginning of next year, and it remains to be seen how they will be implemented in practice.