The European Union has laid out its plans for the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which will mainly target messaging apps to offer a better choice for users, and could have big repercussions for tech giants like Apple and Google.
According to the European Union, its regulators agreed on new rules to the act, such as targeting companies that have over 45 million users, and have a market cap value of $ 82 billion / £62 billion / AU$ 109 billion.
If these companies were to break a rule in the DMA, they could be fined up to 10% of their total worldwide turnover at that time, alongside an additional 20% if further rules are repeatedly broken.
If the DMA gets approved into law, companies will have to allow certain features so they can be allowed in the EU, such as giving users the right to uninstall default apps, or use their apps or services on other platforms, and more. But this could be the start of a slippery slope for Apple, Google, and other vendors.
Analysis: Heading into unforeseen territory
Users like choice when they choose to install apps on their new iPhone 13 Pro or Samsung S22 Ultra. You could arguably go as far back as to when Netscape was the only way to browse the web in the mid-90s, before Microsoft monopolized with Internet Explorer, thanks to the web browser being included by default with its then-popular Windows 95 operating system.
Lawmakers apparently don't want history to repeat itself with modern apps. Every day, many of us use WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger, and more to keep in touch with friends and family.
But the political world has been getting nervous about this, especially with messaging apps which some governments fear are being used to co-ordinate illegal activity. The days of burner mobile phones being disposed of like in the TV show Breaking Bad are no more – apps are seemingly the new problem now.
We have a deal on #DMA! Last trilogue with @Europarl_EN and @EUCouncil ended with a good, strong agreement. Tune into our press conference tomorrow 8:45 😊 pic.twitter.com/krHHsOqG8uMarch 24, 2022
But the DMA act is not without its risks. Behind every app is a team who have a roadmap of features and bug fixes they aim to achieve over a certain period of time, and some of these apps are exclusive to the platform, such as Apple's iMessage, which is only available on macOS, iPadOS and iOS.
Opening these up for other platforms and apps would be counter-intuitive to Apple's goals of creating the whole app itself, and touting it as an exclusive perk for Apple's products. Companies may argue that by forcing them to make their services and apps available to devices outside of their tightly-controlled ecosystem, compatibility and quality issues could emerge, negatively impacting the user experience these companies have carefully worked on.
It could also make what were once simple tasks, such as paying for something via Apple Pay on an iPhone, a lot more complex if other payment options, such as rival Google Pay, have to be offered.
However, the DMA act isn't official just yet – companies can discuss the terms and agreements with the EU and go through due diligence, but the writing looks to be on the wall for users and companies, and the after-effects of this law could turn out to be a disadvantage for not just companies, but users as a whole.
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