EU moves forward on DMA: Apple may be forced to change the App Store, browsers, iMessage and Siri

WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, iMessage, Telegram and other applications may be forced to open up to other minor apps to receive messages and ensure communication with other users as established by the new European Digital Markets Act

The European Union has very specific plans to curb the anti-competitive practices of technological multinationals, primarily Apple, Google and Facebook.

After the last meeting in which the European Parliament extended the elimination of roaming costs for a further 10 years, there was also talk of the new Digital Markets Act (DMA), or a set of rules to be adopted in Europe.

The text of the DMA has yet to be finalized and then approved by both the European Parliament and the European Council. Only after this double approval and publication in the Official Journal of the EU, will it enter into force after 20 days. The rules will instead be active after 6 months. You will therefore understand that there is still a bureaucratic process to overcome, however, it is right to start understanding what it is and what you are trying to do in Europe.

Through these rules, we will try to prevent large technological companies from exercising an absolute monopoly that significantly hinders the birth and development of other companies, platforms or services. The companies that will be involved in the DMA are those that invoice at least 7.5 billion euros per year and have a capitalization of at least 75 billion euros.

Basically: all companies that pass the requirements will have to make sure that their messaging services are interoperable.

What does it mean to have interoperable messaging platforms?

It means that if WhatsApp is widely used by billions of people around the world, it is completely impossible for the birth of a new platform to be successful. Without an adequate number of users using the hypothetical new messaging platform, WhatsApp will be destined to be increasingly successful, crushing anyone else who tries to enter this sector. Europe thinks it is wrong to give all this power to a single company, also because over time it will only be able to increase it further and reach dangerous proportions. This applies to WhatsApp as well as to Facebook, iMessage, Telegram and so on.

The purpose of the DMA is to encourage competition and the opening of platforms which will take place in an asymmetrical way. This means that large messaging applications will have to open up to smaller ones but not the other way around. This possibility will have to be explicitly requested by the minor platform and will have to be accepted without loopholes.

All of this brings us back to the concept of emails. To work they use the IMAP or POP3 standard and when we need to communicate with someone via email, all we have to do is write it and send it knowing that the recipient will surely receive it. The latter can open the email as he sees fit, through the Apple Mail app, through the Gmail app, Outlook or in any other way. With emails, there is full freedom of choice and if a new application is created tomorrow to read or write emails, that too would automatically have the same chances of success that all the others have, it can even override those already existing for years and become the most used client.

Unfortunately, this is not the case with instant messaging: everyone uses their own protocols and can only chat with people who have the same app installed. This does not favour competition or equal opportunities and the DMA states that smaller apps must have a “chance of success” by asking larger companies to “open up”.

The larger platforms “are not obliged to interconnect with each other” although nothing prevents them from doing so. Interoperability between the most popular applications versus the smaller ones will be mandatory. Those who fail to comply with all this will have to pay a fine of 10% of the turnover which will increase to 20% in the event of a repeat offence.

All this will also be extended to social networks at a later time, in order to simplify the transfer of your data. The difficulty of moving all the data from your Facebook or Twitter profile to a new platform that should arise is one of the reasons why we will not see new platforms emerge in the immediate future and this limits competition. If, on the other hand, there are tools capable of exporting data from Facebook and uploading them to a new social network, obtaining a complete profile, perfectly filled in, with all the uploaded photos, statuses and so on, then the user would again have the freedom to choose. what to use.

The other rules

DMA does not stop at messaging platforms because it also includes rules on companies that use their platforms to create profiling of users to whom they can advertise. In a similar way to what Apple did with iOS 15 and the ATTT, the DMA also states that companies must obtain the explicit consent of the user before they can track, profile and send him personalized advertising.

In addition, Apple and Google will have to allow alternative third-party stores to be installed and thus support payment systems that are beyond their control.

Apple has repeatedly stressed that all of these rules are dangerous:

We remain concerned that some provisions of the DMA will create unnecessary privacy and security vulnerabilities for our users, while others will prohibit us from charging for the intellectual property we invest heavily in. We deeply believe in competition and in creating thriving competitive markets around the world and will continue to work with stakeholders across Europe in hopes of mitigating these vulnerabilities, says an Apple spokesperson.

Whatsapp also commented:

Interoperability can have benefits, but if not done carefully it could cause a tragic weakening of security and privacy in Europe.

Browsers will also change, and today they are forced to use Apple’s WebKit engine. If the law is passed, each browser will be able to use its own customized version of Chromium or any other engine, just like the desktop counterpart.

Siri will also have to change, or rather, it will have to live with other virtual assistants if the competitors decide to land on iOS as well.

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