WhatsApp, with its two billion users, is planning to allow its users to send and receive messages to and from users of other messaging apps while maintaining end-to-end encryption, a first for the platform, a report said.
The surprise move, first reported by Wired, has huge implications and comes in response to EU legislation mandating openness among big tech companies.
Initially, interoperability will focus on text messaging and media sharing between two people, with group chats and calls planned for later, according to the Wired report.
Users must opt in to receive messages from other apps to ensure better privacy and security. Interoperability aims to eliminate the need for users to know which app their contacts are using, allowing easy communication across platforms.
Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company, prefers other apps to adopt the Signal encryption protocol. However, third-party apps can use alternative encryption protocols if they meet WhatsApp’s security standards.
Companies interested in interoperability must sign agreements and adhere to WhatsApp’s terms, which involve encrypting content using the Signal tool, and connecting to WhatsApp’s servers.
The specifics of the plan will be published in March, with implementation expected over several months, according to an interview in Wired with Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp.
While Meta is working on interoperability, many messaging companies remain silent on their intentions, given the potential complexities and security risks — not to mention the potential business risks.
Interoperability could reshape power dynamics among tech companies, potentially favouring larger players.
Challenges include spam prevention and user identification across platforms using different methods (for instance, phone numbers versus randomly generated IDs). Despite these challenges, Meta sees the use of WhatsApp’s existing architecture as a scalable solution, albeit with slower feature evolution compared to closed networks.
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