WhatsApp — the messaging app with support for end-to-end encryption (E2EE) owned by Meta — will soon add support for cross-platform messaging. Support for third party chats will allow people using a different messaging platform to text users on WhatsApp, and Meta has said that the feature will be opt-in to prevent users from being spammed across services. The company’s confirmation of its efforts to enable cross-platform messaging comes ahead of the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) deadline of March 6.
When the upcoming chat interoperability is enabled on WhatsApp, users will be able to send messages along with various types of attachments, WhatsApp Engineering Director Dick Brouwer confirmed to Wired. They will see a new “Third Party Chats” section at the top of their chat list that will inform them about messages received from users on other platforms, while separating these chats from those protected by WhatsApp’s E2EE encryption.
In order to message WhatsApp users, other chat platforms can encrypt messages using the open source Signal Protocol and send them, while connecting to the Meta-owned chat platform to send and receive messages. Brouwer told the publication that WhatsApp is documenting its client-server protocol which will let other chat services connect their clients directly to WhatsApp’s servers and message users across platforms.
If companies do not want to follow the prescribed procedure, they will need to show that their encryption protocol matches WhatsApp’s security standards — or use a less secure “proxy” that communicates with their service. According to the report, several popular messaging platforms did not confirm whether they had partnered with WhatsApp to add support for third party chats.
The report says that regular SMS messages won’t be supported for third party chats feature. Meanwhile, unlike individual chats, calling and group conversations across chat platforms won’t be available this year. Brouwer also stated that the features on WhatsApp chats would be developed at a different pace compared to third party chats. Users will also have to opt in to receive chats from third party platforms, to prevent spam and scams.
While a feature tracker previously spotted the interface for third party chats in development, there’s no word from the company on when support for the feature will be rolled out. The deadline for the DMA regulations is March 6, which means that there’s less than a month before WhatsApp introduces support for the feature — at least in the EU. We can expect to hear more about third party chats on WhatsApp in the coming weeks.