(CMR) WhatsApp is getting ready to make a significant change that will allow users to send messages from other messaging apps to its users.
According to Wired, for about the past two years, WhatsApp has been building a way for other messaging apps to plug themselves into its service and let people chat across apps—all without breaking the end-to-end encryption it uses to protect the privacy and security of people’s messages. The move is the first time the chat app has opened itself up this way, and it potentially offers greater competition.
This shift was further driven when lawmakers in the European Union designated Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company, as a gatekeeper company and required it to open up its services to others after six months—that is, by March this year.
This is part of the same Digital Markets Act which will see Apple open up the iPhone to users in the EU, but it looks like WhatsApp’s changes will apply outside Europe as well, Forbes reported.
“There’s real tension between offering an easy way to offer this interoperability to third parties whilst at the same time preserving the WhatsApp privacy, security, and integrity bar,” “I think we're pretty happy with where we’ve landed,” said Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp who has worked on Meta rolling out encryption to its Messenger app.
Wired further reported that despite WhatsApp working on its interoperability plan for more than a year, it will still take some time for third-party chats to hit people’s apps. Messaging companies that want to interoperate with WhatsApp or Messenger will need to sign an agreement with the company and follow its terms.
Brouwer says Meta would prefer if other apps use the Signal encryption protocol, which its systems are based upon. Other than its namesake app and the Meta-owned messengers, the Signal Protocol is publicly disclosed as being used in Google Messages and Skype. To send messages, third-party apps will need to encrypt content using the Signal Protocol and then package it into message stanzas in the eXtensible Markup Language (XML). When receiving messages, apps will need to connect to WhatsApp’s servers.
“We think that the best way to deliver this approach is through a solution that is built on WhatsApp’s existing client-server architecture,” Brouwer told Wired, adding it has been working with other companies on the plans.
“This effectively means that the approach that we’re trying to take is for WhatsApp to document our client-server protocol and letting third-party clients connect directly to our infrastructure and exchange messages with WhatsApp clients,” he added.