Apple is Reportedly on the Fence About Opening Up iMessage

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act, which is set to come into full effect in 2024 will have big implications for Apple. Bloomberg reported yesterday that Apple plans to allow third-party app stores on iPhones and iPads sold in Europe, which would allow app developers to avoid Apple’s 30% cut on in-app purchases.

The EU’s Digital Market Acts will also require Apple and other big platforms to make their messaging apps interoperable with smaller messaging platforms. This segment of the Digital Markets Act is targeting closed messaging platforms such as iMessage, WhatsApp, or Facebook Messenger, which all have more than a billion users.

According to the Bloomberg report, Apple is currently undecided about complying with this aspect of the Digital Markets Act due to the complexity of making these proprietary protocols talk to each other. Moreover, the company still has no plans to add support for the RCS messaging standard pushed by Google and mobile carriers.

The company hasn’t, however, made a decision on how it may open iMessage and its Messages app to third-party services — another requirement of the Digital Markets Act. Engineers believe that such a change could hurt end-to-end encryption and other privacy features offered by iMessage. The company also isn’t currently considering integrating RCS, or rich communication services, a messaging protocol that Google and others are pushing Apple to adopt.

In the past couple of months, Google has been running a #GetTheMessage campaign to pressure Apple to embrace RCS and make the experience of sending messages from an iPhone to an Android phone better. So far, Apple promptly ignored this advice. “I don’t hear our users asking that we put a lot of energy on that at this point,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the 2022 Code Conference back in September. The exec also added that he “would love to convert” Android users to iOS.

iMessage is probably more popular in the US than the rest of the world, but Apple is still very much aware that it’s one of the few features that can lock users into iOS. That’s also why the company never released an iMessage app on Android. It will be interesting to see if the Digital Markets Act can force Apple to change its stance, especially with the EU threatening companies that violate the legislation repeatedly with fines of as much as 20% of their annual global revenue.

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