WhatsApp tightens the noose to save its brand identity – Know what it means

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New Delhi | Published: July 4, 2018 7:12:21 PM

According to a report by XDA Developers, two independent third-party clients have been sent the Cease and Desist letters by a legal firm on behalf of WhatsApp

WhatsApp has asked the developers to remove some features

WhatsApp, being one of the most popular chat apps across major platforms, has time and again attracted other app developers to either create the duplicate but unverified versions of the app or develop an extension that integrates the chat application in some way so that it allows super customisations, which are frequently demanded by users. The Facebook-owned company has attempted to save its brand identity that is in peril due to the emergence of these third-party apps. The company is now reportedly looking to tighten the noose around these clients by sending out new Cease and Desist letters to independent Android developers.

According to a report by XDA Developers, two independent third-party clients have been sent the Cease and Desist letters by a legal firm on behalf of WhatsApp for not complying with the changed API’s Terms of Service. The developers have been asked to remove certain functionalities from their apps or they must face litigation. Both the apps are said not to be violating any of the Terms of Service laid down by WhatsApp as they utilise standard Android APIs. The two apps – DirectChat and Can’t Talk – do not use any coding or interfacing sourced from WhatsApp. This means that both the companies do not come under the purview of the infringement of the Terms of Service for APIs.

The Can’t Talk app sends automated alerts to the people trying to contact the user when he/she isn’t around. What it does is make the use of the quick reply API that is natively available to Android platform. For instance, if a user is driving, the app will send a predefined message to the received messages and calls on the user’s behalf. The app has a premium model, so if the user wants to go beyond the ambit of automating replies for cellular SMS and calls, and set preset messages for messages received on WhatsApp, Slack, and other applications, he may opt for that.

On the other hand, the DirectChat app clones the ‘Chat Head’ functionality provided by Facebook Messenger for a number of other chat apps including WhatsApp. Much like the chat head for Messenger, users can use the chat bubbles for WhatsApp, which is available as an overlay on the phone’s screen, no matter what other apps are opened. WhatsApp is now asking both the developers to remove the functionalities as they violate WhatsApp’s Terms of Service, however, the report points out that none of the ToS has been compromised in the integration of the basic functionalities offered by both the apps.

The report also contains the full text of the message sent by the legal firm representing WhatsApp to the developers, asking them to do the said thing immediately or else they must face legal actions. The developers have also been snatched of their limited licence to access WhatsApp services. The report terms these allegations vague and baseless, which can set an ill-intentioned precedent for other independent developers. “If this continues, what’s stopping WhatsApp from demanding the takedown of any notification manager application, regardless of its specific use for WhatsApp,” the report noted.

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