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Apple won’t have to make iMessage work with other messaging services, EU says

Microsoft’s Bing and Edge have also avoided stricter regulation under the bloc’s Digital Markets Act.

Reuters / Reuters

Apple’s blue bubbles are safe from interlopers for now. Following an investigation, European Union officials have determined that iMessage — along with Microsoft's Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising — don't hold a dominant enough position in their respective markets to be subject to stricter regulation under the Digital Markets Act. Were iMessage to be brought under the DMA rules, Apple would need to make it interoperable with other messaging services.

The three Microsoft products and iMessage meet the quantitative thresholds for regulation under the DMA. Apple and Microsoft easily clear the law's revenue and market capitalization thresholds, while the four platform services in question each have at least 45 million monthly active users in EU and north of 10,000 yearly active business users in the bloc.

However, the companies argued that iMessage, Bing et al do not qualify as gatekeeper services. In Apple's case, it claimed iMessage's "small scale relative to other messaging services" and other factors meant that it should evade the DMA's rules. Despite Google and mobile carriers pushing the EU to designate iMessage as a gatekeeper service, the bloc ultimately sided with Apple. Still, the EU's executive arm noted that it will "continue to monitor the developments on the market with respect to these services, should any substantial changes arise."

While the EU won't force iMessage to play nicely with other messaging services, Apple has creaked open the door to interoperability. The company has pledged to support the RCS messaging standard starting this year, meaning that messaging between iMessage and Android should be more secure and feature-rich. RCS texts will still be in green bubbles, however, rather than the blue of iMessage missives.

Meanwhile, Apple and Microsoft haven't avoided the DMA's clutches entirely ahead of the rules coming into force on March 7. Some of their other products are subject to the law, including Windows and LinkedIn on the Microsoft side and iOS, the App Store and Safari in Apple's case. Meta, Google, Amazon and TikTok parent ByteDance will also need to abide by the DMA. Notably, the EU has designated Meta's Messenger and WhatsApp as gatekeeper services, meaning they'll need to play nicely with other messaging apps.

Apple recently spelled out how it will open up the App Store to competitors, including third-party payment options, though rivals have called out the company's implementation of the DMA rules. Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney criticized it for adding "new junk fees on downloads and new Apple taxes on payments they don't process."