New legislation from the European Union could force Apple to open up its iMessage platform to work with other chat apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
Specifically, the Digital Markets Act (DMA) wants to rule that all major chat apps use a single interoperable platform. Meaning users can choose their favorite but still be able to send messages to anyone else, no matter which app the recipient is using.
Currently, Apple’s Messages app makes a distinction between iMessage (blue text bubbles) and SMS (green text bubbles). In reality this splits conversations depending on whether or not you’re texting another Apple device, in which case you can utilize all of the cool extra features in Messages, or an Android device, in which case you get very basic text messaging reminiscent of a 20-year-old Nokia phone.
This legislation suggests a world in which users of all platforms would be able to send each other messages, photos, files, and even make video calls – regardless of the apps used.
Most Android phones already work with RCS, a universal text protocol championed by Google. This allows users to send rich text messages as described above, and if these new laws are put into action, adding RCS support to Messages might be Apple’s easiest way out of a tricky bind. Whether it would do so across the world or just in Europe is harder to answer.
This isn’t the first time the EU has tried to meddle with Apple’s plans – a year ago lawmakers tried to force Apple to switch the iPhone from a Lightning port to USB-C, but no such change arrived with iPhone 13.
It’s anyone’s guess whether this will have a genuine effect on the companies responsible for the world’s biggest messaging platforms, but an elegant solution that allows every message thread to be viewed from a single app wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.