Google and a handful of European carriers have written to the European Commission (EC) to urge it to designate iMessage as a 'Gatekeeper,' a move that would force it to open the messaging service up to competing platforms.
The EC is already investigating whether iMessage should be added to a growing list of platforms and services that are designated as so-called 'Gatekeepers,' But Apple argues that it doesn't meet the 45 million monthly-user threshold required for that to be a consideration.
But that so far hasn't stopped the EC from taking a good, long look at iMessage to figure out whether Apple should be required to make it interoperable with other similar platforms like WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger — both two platforms that are already on the EC's list of gatekeepers.
Interoperability is the word of the day
This is all in the name of the Digital Markets Act, or DMA, with the Financial Times reporting that Google joined executives from a number of European carriers including Vodafone and Deutsche Telekom in arguing that iMessage should be added to its list.
The DMCA is designed to ensure that no one company or platform can hold a specific user base hostage. In this example, it would be argued that iMessage locks users into iPhones, iPads, and Macs while making the experience worse for those who don't use those devices but need to communicate with people who do.
Right now, any cross-platform communications are done via SMS, the same service that has been around for decades. Google's Android supports the RCS standard, an upgrade on SMS that adds iMessage-like features including reactions and read receipts, but Apple has so far refused to support it. Google has long called on Apple to add RCS support to open a line of communication for Android users.
While there are third-party cross-platform services like the aforementioned WhatsApp and Messenger, they all require their own apps. If Apple was forced to open iMessage up we could expect its messages to appear in the WhatsApp and Messenger apps and vice versa, for example.
If Apple is forced to open iMessage up to other platforms and services, the change may only apply to users in the European Union. However, as Apple has shown with the switch to USB-C, it's possible it may simply go all-in and spin the change as a feature rather than something it's been forced to do in order to keep iMessage available across (almost) an entire continent.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
Google is pretty desperate are they losing marketshare to the iPhone in EuropeReply
What is amazing to me is this. People make it seem as if you cannot send and receive text messages between an iPhone and an Android smartphone when, in fact, you can. In addition, there are 3rd-party messaging apps people can install on both devices and communicate with.Reply
The detractors are using the word “hostage” in describing Apple’s dominance in Messaging. Yet, companies are preventing users from accessing apps, features and services until they agree to allow those companies access to personal information, habits, health data, etcetera.
“Google tells Europe that Apple's iMessage should be forced to work with Android”Reply