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Google now tries getting EU to force open iMessage

Apple's iMessage

Google has been trying to get Apple to let it in to iMessage for years, but sees a new opportunity through the European Union's Digital Markets Act.

Apple's iMessage is on a billion active devices, and Google's messaging systems are not. At heart, that's why Google has asked Apple to open up iMessages, then alternately mocked and begged it over adding support for a rival RCS system — which doesn't work, and Google itself doesn't fully support.

The new EU Digital Markets Act (DMA), however, mandates that firms it defines as gatekeepers, must open their platforms to rivals. That would be perfect for Google, except it all turns on whether iMessage is big enough in Europe to count.

Outside of the US, WhatsApp is vastly more commonly used than Messages, so Apple has tried to claim that it falls below the DMA's usage threshold for gatekeeper status.

According to the Financial Times, Google has jointly written to the EU with executives from carriers Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica and Orange. The letter to Thierry Breton, EU internal market commissioner, claims that "enriched messaging" is only available between Apple users.

"It is paramount that businesses can reach all their customers taking advantage of modern communications services with enriched messaging features," says the letter. "Through iMessage, business users are only able to send enriched messages to iOS users and must rely on traditional SMS for all the other end users."

Consequently, the "fundamental nature" of iMessage as "an important gateway between business users and their customers is without doubt justification for Apple's designation as gatekeeper for its iMessage service."

It's not clear whether Google mentions RCS in the full letter, but it also does not appear to acknowledge that "enriched messages" can be sent via WhatsApp.

Apple reportedly declined to comment, but referred the publication to a previous statement on the issue.

"Consumers today have access to a wide variety of messaging apps, and often use many at once, which reflects how easy it is to switch between them," says Apple's previous statement. "iMessage is designed and marketed for personal consumer communications, and we look forward to explaining to the commission why iMessage is outside the scope of the DMA."

The EU has told the Financial Times only that the investigation into iMessages is continuing. The EU has until February 2024 to decide a verdict.