The future is now. Next month (March 2024), you may be able to WhatsApp people without even having to give them your number. You may even be able to see texts from Telegram, Messenger and more in one place - on WhatsApp. The New System With many messaging platforms, it can be difficult to remember where a text came from. Sometimes, I need to find information in a text. Unfortunately, my goldfish memory means that I don't remember where the text came from. Was it WhatsApp or was it Telegram? Or was it something else? Where on earth is that text? Sound familiar? Well, this new update is about to change the game. That is, the update that WhatsApp plans to launch. For about two years now, WhatsApp has been exploring ways for other messaging apps to integrate with WhatsApp and let people chat across apps without undermining the end-to-end encryption that is currently implemented. End-to-end encryption is a method of secure communication that prevents third parties from accessing data while it's transferred from one end system or device to another. Data is encrypted on the sender's system or device, and only the intended recipient can decrypt it. This ensures security and privacy when chatting with others. The interoperability system will start with text messages, images, voice messages, videos and file transfer, and will extend to calls and group chats years later. This change came about after the European Union (EU) introduced a set of laws aimed at curbing the power of ‘big tech’ firms to prevent these big firms from dominating the industry, making European digital markets more competitive. This set of laws, known as the Digital Markets Act (DMA), was first proposed in December 2020. Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp, said that one can choose whether or not to participate in being open to exchanging messages with third parties. He notes that some may choose not to as it is a potential source of spam and scams. For those who choose to opt in, they will be able to see messages from other apps in a separate section that will appear at the top of the inbox, because these networks are very different, Brouwer says. On 11 September 2023, WABetaInfo spotted a new "Third-Party Chats" section, giving us a tiny glimpse at what the interoperability will look like. 📝 WhatsApp beta for Android 220.127.116.11: what's new? WhatsApp is working on complying with new EU regulations by developing support for chat interoperability, and it will be available in a future update of the app!https://t.co/XI6zMoOD5P pic.twitter.com/Jpd9Leh2Ki — WABetaInfo (@WABetaInfo) September 10, 2023 Previously, we Singaporeans loved Meta's WhatsApp as it enables us to chat with others regardless of whether they are Android or iPhone users. When Telegram became popular in Singapore in 2021, some switched over to Telegram while others chose to remain on WhatsApp. Among those who chose to remain on WhatsApp (usually the older folks...right?), many either did not download Telegram or rarely checked it. This led to problems as people would have to remember others' preferred messaging platform. If they messaged someone on the wrong platform, the recipient may not see the text for hours or even days. This problem ends with the new update which enables us to chat with others easily without having to accommodate for their preferred app. While Meta has reached out to smaller companies, it is not yet clear which companies will actually connect to the Meta-owned app. There are still some concerns about how WhatsApp will keep messages safe and encrypted when it starts incorporating other services. Companies that agree to interoperate with WhatsApp will have to sign an agreement, and more details of this plan are set to be revealed next month. Even after the plans are announced, WhatsApp will still be given a couple months to roll out changes. Note that the traditional SMS will not be included in these plans as it is technically not a competitor. TechRadar commented that the interoperability might not feel quite as seamless as we had hoped. WhatsApp is also close to finishing a previously announced feature which is allowing users to set up a username. This feature, similar to Telegram, improves security by minimising the need to share phone numbers. They are testing and working on ways to prevent duplicate usernames from being created to ensure utmost security and privacy. The Reason for the Change: DMA The aforementioned DMA, implemented in November 2022, removes market barriers created by large “gatekeeper” platforms such as Apple, Amazon, and Meta. For more information about this, you can watch this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v3MZVA2kcJzI&listPLoa9nNa48ZVVgUOs4vYirCdsJQpkbUe51 Do note that this applies only to the EU, but sometimes, regulations in the EU would lead to a change in the product worldwide. An example would be iPhone 15 being forced to use USB-C charging port (yes, it was due to a law in the EU, too). This is to level the playing field for digital companies of all sizes and enhance customer choice. Think of it as David and Goliath, except David doesn't even have his stone. Against the giant Goliath (big tech firms like Google and Microsoft), a small David (small businesses) wouldn't stand a chance if he didn't have his rock. The DMA sort of acts like a rock, giving David a chance to compete against Goliath. The DMA mandates that those identified as gatekeepers can no longer prioritise their own services over competitors' and must enable competitors' services to interoperate with theirs. This makes the digital market fairer, more transparent and contestable, allowing small businesses to scale up more easily. As a gatekeeper, WhatsApp has to comply with the DMA. Following the identification of gatekeeper companies on 6 September 2023, the gatekeepers were given six months to comply. Hence, WhatsApp has until 6 March 2024 to make the change. For now, it's still unknown if these changes will go into effect only in the EU, or if they will be available in other parts of the world.