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Apple’s iMessage doesn’t have to comply with EU’s Digital Markets Act

The European Commission just announced that Apple’s iMessage won’t be classified as a “core platform service” under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This means the service won’t have to meet strict new requirements, like being interoperable with other messaging apps. The Commission also decided not to classify Microsoft’s Edge browser, Bing search engine, and advertising business as core platform services.

“Following a thorough assessment of all arguments, taking into account input by relevant stakeholders, and after hearing the Digital Markets Advisory Committee, the Commission found that iMessage, Bing, Edge and Microsoft Advertising do not qualify as gatekeeper services,” the EU’s press release reads.

This decision wraps up a five-month investigation that the Commission kicked off when it released its list of 22 regulated services last September. While it tagged Apple’s App Store, Safari browser, and iOS operating system as core platform services, it put off a final call on iMessage until the investigation was done. A similar probe into iPadOS is still in progress.

Meanwhile, Meta has had two of its messaging platforms, WhatsApp and Messenger, labeled as core platform services under the DMA. They’ve been working on making these platforms interoperable with third-party services.

Even though iMessage dodged the regulatory bullet that comes with an official DMA designation, the time of regulatory scrutiny happened to overlap with Apple’s announcement of support for the cross-platform RCS messaging standard on iPhones, which Google has been advocating for. It’s hard to believe this was just a coincidence: Apple made the RCS announcement on November 16th, the same day as the deadline for appealing the European Commission’s DMA designation.

Google isn’t happy with the Commission’s decision. “Excluding these popular services from DMA rules means consumers and businesses won’t be offered the breadth of choice that already exists on other, more open platforms,” Google spokesperson Emily Clarke told The Verge in a statement.

Apple has made it clear that it’s not replacing its proprietary messaging service, iMessage, with the cross-platform standard. Instead, it’ll support both.

“[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 stay, but now, green bubbles will mean messages sent over feature-rich RCS instead of SMS.