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Apple will not be forced to open iMessage by the EU

Apple’s iMessage is not designated as a “core platform service” under the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), the European Commission announced today. The move means the service will not face strict new obligations, including offering interoperability with other messaging services. The Commission also chose not to designate Microsoft’s Edge browser, Bing search engine and advertising activities as core platform services.

“After a thorough evaluation of all arguments, taking into account the contributions of relevant stakeholders, and after hearing the Digital Markets Advisory Committee, the Commission has concluded that iMessage, Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising are not considered to be access control services,” the EU press release said. lit, although they meet the quantitative thresholds for a primary platform service designation. Apple and Microsoft welcomed the Commission’s decision in statements made to The edge.

This decision is the culmination of a five-month investigation opened by the Commission when it published its list of 22 regulated services last September. Although he named Apple’s App Store, Safari browser and the iOS operating system as core platform services, he waited to make a final decision on iMessage until a investigation can be completed. A similar investigation into iPadOS is underway.

Meta, meanwhile, saw two of its messaging platforms, WhatsApp and Messenger, designated as core platform services under the DMA, and strives to make them interoperable with third-party services. The company recently explained how WhatsApp interoperability will work, explaining how its users will need to opt-in to receiving communications from external messaging apps and that those messages will then appear in a separate inbox. Businesses wishing to interact with WhatsApp will need to sign an agreement with Meta and adhere to its terms.

Although iMessage avoided the burden of complying with the rules associated with the official DMA designation, the period of regulatory scrutiny coincided with Apple’s announcement of support for the cross-platform RCS messaging standard on iPhones, which Google demanded. In what seems unlikely to be a coincidence, Apple made the RCS announcement on November 16, the deadline to appeal the European Commission’s DMA designation.

Apple has made it clear that it will support the cross-platform standard alongside iMessage; This does not replace the company’s proprietary email service. “(RCS) will work alongside iMessage, which will continue to be the best and most secure messaging experience for Apple users,” Apple spokesperson Jacqueline Roy said at the time. The distinction between blue and green bubbles will remain, except that now green bubbles will mean messages sent via feature-rich RCS rather than SMS.

Apple’s Safari browser, iOS operating system and App Store must still comply with the regulation’s strictest requirements when the DMA goes into full effect on March 7. Apple recently announced a series of changes to comply with regulations, including allowing alternative app stores and browser engines to WebKit.

But critics have been unhappy with the way Apple is going about complying with the DMA, particularly with a basic technology fee that will see developers charge €0.50 per download, every year, even when they distribute apps on alternative app stores (although the first million downloads are exempt). Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney called Apple’s plans “hot garbage” and “another example of malicious compliance,” while Spotify said the new fees were “extortion, pure and simple.” simple,” and that the compliance plan amounted to “a complete and utter farce.” .”

Updated February 13 at 7:51 a.m. ET: Added response from Apple and Microsoft.

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