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WhatsApp is about to change

Whatsapp Chat Lock

WhatsApp is about to change. The change will be big and far-reaching, allowing users to send messages from other messaging apps and see them land in your WhatsApp. How cool is that? Last September, lawmakers in the European Union designated Meta, WhatsApp’s parent company, as what it calls 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. As reported by the estimable Matt Burgess at Wired, WhatsApp has only partly been cajoled into this move, having been working on opening things up for around two years. If you’re like me, you spend more time than you’d like trying to remember if that important message came via iMessage, WhatsApp or Messenger, say.

The new system is meant to overcome this annoying circumstance by allowing people to message you at WhatsApp from another app. The change will mean those other apps can attach themselves to WhatsApp to allow people to chat across apps without denigrating the end-to-end encryption that’s in place. This interoperability will start with text messages, images, voice messages, videos and file transfer. Calls and group chats will come later, perhaps as much as years afterwards.

Wired quotes Dick Brouwer, an engineering director at WhatsApp, who points out that a core requirement is that users opt-in. “I can choose whether or not I want to participate in being open to exchanging messages with third parties,” Brouwer explains. “This is important because it could be a big source of spam and scams.”

If you do opt-in, you’ll 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. In a sense, it’s a logical extension of what made WhatsApp so popular, especially in Europe: it is platform-agnostic. So, you never needed to worry if your friends had an iPhone or Android phone—WhatsApp could reach them.

Now, you should be able to reach your friends or family without even knowing if their preferred app is Signal, Telegram or iMessage and without the need to download all the apps. Of course, different standards make this more complicated, so there will be wrinkles to be ironed out in terms of encryption protocols. Meta would prefer it if the Signal encryption protocol, which it uses, is used by other apps, too.

“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 says. Which companies will actually connect to WhatsApp is not yet clear, but the fact that it’s about to become a possibility is highly welcome.

credit: BBC

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