Don’t expect to talk to your friends on WhatsApp and Messenger from another application soon: it will take a while to arrive

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The WhatsApp interoperability party was on March 6 and no application came. That is to say, no external application can send messages to WhatsApp usersin Europe or outside Europe, despite the fact that this was precisely the obligation imposed by the European Commission on WhatsApp due to its status as gatekeeper.

Meta has done its homework, but now it’s up to third-party services to comply with the standards and technical requirements of this integration, and they’re not easy at all. As a consequence, it is quite likely that WhatsApp interoperability is relegated to a handful of applications and we won’t see it for months.

WhatsApp opens, but…

The Digital Markets Act or DMA has turned upside down the European presence of big technology companies, including Meta. WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram enter the classification of access guardians and as such they must allow other applications to connect to them to interact with their users or risk fines of 10% of global annual turnover.

Goal seems to be done your homework regarding interoperability by WhatsApp. In a post on your engineering blog, the company details the technical ins and outs of how this integration works designed to maintain the security and privacy integrity of the platform. It’s no surprise that the Signal protocol is at the core of the integration and all messages from third-party apps to WhatsApp users will go through WhatsApp’s servers first.

Wac

However, Just because the technical part is ready does not mean that we will see it soon. In fact, Meta waited until the last day to publish all necessary documentation so that a third-party application can offer the connection with WhatsApp. And it is not an easy task.

If you have a messaging app, let’s call it PatataChat, and you want its users to be able to send messages to WhatsApp users in Europe, you will need fill out this Interoperable Messaging Eligibility Form. It seems easy, but behind it there is a large number of technical requirements.

What is needed to connect to WhatsApp

Before submitting the form, any interested party will need to read the Reference offer and all its requirements (mainly legal), understand all the necessary technical requirements (a 23 page PDF) and, of course, being an organization that provides messaging services for end users in Europe. The more the requirements are broken down, the more it becomes clear that many will be left out or not bothered at all.

Steps

The three “simple” steps required before submitting the form to Meta requesting access to interoperability.

For a start, legal requirements. In addition to being long and complex terms, all integration work can disappear at any time since either party can suspend the interoperability agreement, reasonably, if the legislation changes or, for example, if it were “necessary due to any action or omission of the other Party […] that has had a material adverse effect on the Services and/or the business, reputation or financial condition of its affiliates […]”.

Applications that connect to WhatsApp also need maintain security requirements and deal with the complication of managing data privacy with an additional layer of complexity by including another service.

The technical requirements are even more complex. So much so that Meta has divided the implementation of interoperability in third-party applications into five milestones or milestones, to make them more digestible: identity verification, chat protocol, messaging, integrity and additional functions and user deletion.

Thus, an application that connects to WhatsApp to send messages must, for example, change its notification system, modifying its servers so that accept notifications from WhatsApp servers. What was previously a transaction between two points (PatataChat users and their servers), now involves a flow that passes through four points: WhatsApp user, WhatsApp server, third-party server and third-party user.

Notify

Diagram of how notifications work in an application that connects to WhatsApp

Technical and legal complexity will exclude small teams, so it is quite likely that interoperability will only come from applications with large teams behind. There will not be many PatataChat and it is more likely that we will see Signal.

Applicants must also meet certain requirements: offer messaging services in Europe from user to user, have a unique user identifier, have the necessary infrastructure to offer the services, be able to demonstrate that it meets security and legal requirements and have not been expelled from the interoperability service in the previous twelve months. The first integration should provide the following functions:

Features

Is a large investment of resources to make it easier for users to exit your app, and whether this is something that benefits third-party app creators (like Telegram) remains up in the air. At the end of the day, what many of these applications seek is to attract more users and not make it easier for those who already use WhatsApp to talk to them.

Taking all of the above into account, it is easy to predict that There will be very few external applications that allow us to send messages to WhatsApp nor does it seem feasible that said interoperability will arrive soon. Meta, for its part, has already fulfilled its obligations to open the application and the ball is now in the court of whoever wants to sign up, without a deadline to do so. Patience.

In Xataka Mobile | Open Telegram and send a WhatsApp, Europe’s goal: this is how interoperability will work in the messaging application

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Abraham
Expert tech and gaming writer, blending computer science expertise