But Google, Microsoft and Apple are not blameless
Europe is still busy with the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which has been in force since May. The EU has now revealed which services are most closely monitored (the gatekeeper). A number of big names are missing there, such as Gmail, Bing, Edge and iMessage.
Microsoft, Apple and Google are therefore still off the hook with some of their programs, but that does not mean that they do not have to comply with the DMA. The only thing is that they don’t get extra rules imposed for that specific software. They are indeed gatekeepers. The gatekeepers are: ByteDance (TikTok), Amazon, Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Apple, Microsoft and Meta (the company behind WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram). Windows is included, Android is included, iOS is included, and so are the corresponding stores of the two mobile platforms.
You don’t just become a gatekeeper: for that you need to have 45 million monthly active users. So we could already have thought of which companies would fall under this. Software such as Bing and iMessage are still under investigation: Europe hopes to provide a definite answer about the potential gatekeeper status of these programs in the next five months. The tech superpowers probably hope that this is not the case, because as a gatekeeper you have to prevent unfair competition, among other things, and that has major consequences. You can see that in the App Store around the whole bickering around Fortnite in the Apple store and its own payment system: that resulted in major lawsuits, the winner of which is still somewhat in the middle. Incidentally, Google is also guilty of this with its Play Store.
Soon Apple will no longer be allowed to go that far and will also have to allow other app stores on its iPhone. Meta also has a lot to think about how it will perform its role as a gatekeeper. This competition rule also applies to messaging services. WhatsApp messages are encrypted, but if competition must be open, then that is not really an option.
While Google itself will have to take gatekeeper actions, it’s likely hoping that Apple’s iMessage will also get the status: Apple has been pushing for years to include Rich Communication Services (RCS) in iMessage, so that Android users get everything from the conversation. Apple doesn’t want it and says you should buy your grandmother an iPhone if she wants to keep up with the rest, but soon it may not be able to convey that so convincingly: not in the EU at least.
There is still a lot of work to be done, there is still a lot of tension in the air and we have yet to see what the Digital Markets Act will actually do. In any case, there will be quite a few nervous people walking around at the big tech companies, because things have to change, that is clear.