10 February 2024

It's Called Malicious Compliance

The real reason that Apple requires all browsers on its iPad platform is because it allows them to degrade the web browser so that the only option for user for apps or an app-like experience is their app store.

If Apple allowed a web browser with greater permissions, then people could create and sell web apps for the iPhone which would not need to go through the Apple approval process nor be loaded from the app store.

So, when the EU ordered Apple to open up the iPhone as a part of an antitrust ruling, Apple promptly broke what little remained of web apps in the version of iOS designed for European release:

Apple has argued for years that developers who don't want to abide by its rules for native iOS apps can always write web apps.

It has done so in its platform guidelines, in congressional testimony, and in court. Web developers, for their part, maintain that Safari and its underlying WebKit engine still lack the technical capabilities to allow web apps to compete with native apps on iOS hardware. To this day, it's argued, the fruit cart's laggardly implementation of Push Notifications remains subpar.

The enforcement of Europe's Digital Markets Act was expected to change that – to promote competition held back by gatekeepers. But Apple, in a policy change critics have called "malicious compliance," appears to be putting web apps at an even greater disadvantage under the guise of compliance with European law.

In the second beta release of iOS 17.4, which incorporates code to accommodate Europe's Digital Markets Act, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have been demoted from standalone apps that use the whole screen to shortcuts that open within the default browser.

This appears to solely affect users in the European Union, though your mileage may vary.


PWAs are supposed to make web apps (sites) function more like native apps on mobile devices. They're supposed to be capable (through access to APIs for file system access, media controls, app badging, and full clipboard support), reliable (by functioning in the absence of a network connection), and installable (launchable from a home screen icon in their own standalone window instead of within a browser tab).

But the debut of iOS 17.4 beta 2 on Tuesday suggests the breakage of PWAs is deliberate. The Register understands Apple's change will cause users to lose local data in existing web apps, because web apps and Safari have different storage locations, and it will also break notifications, because there's no way to enable notifications without app installation.

Maybe the EU should just ban Apple's app store, because the boys from Cupertino are going to rat-f%$# the process otherwise.


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