Apple confirms it’s intentionally breaking iPhone web apps in the EU


Well, it turns out it wasn’t a bug that broke iPhone web apps, also known as Progressive Web Apps (PWA), in the EU. Following developer complaints and news reports about how PWAs were no longer functional in the EU after installing the most recent iOS beta versions, Apple has updated its website to explain why . Unsurprisingly, the tech giant attributes the change to new EU regulation, the Digital Markets Act, saying the complexity surrounding the DMA’s requirement to allow different browser engines is the root cause.

To catch you up, security researcher Tommy Musk And Advocacy on the Open Web first noticed that PWAs had been demoted to website shortcuts with the release of the second beta version of iOS 17.4. It was initially unclear whether this was a beta bug – strange things have happened – or whether it was intended to undermine the functionality of PWAs in the EU, a market where Apple is now forced to allow alternative app stores and third-party payments. , and alternative navigation engines, among others. In beta versions, PWAs, which typically allow web apps to function and look more like native iOS apps, no longer worked. Developers noticed that these web apps would open more like a bookmark saved on your home screen.

As MacRumors emphasized at the time, this meant no “dedicated windowing, notifications, or long-term local storage”; iOS16.4 also allowed PWAs to badge their icons with notifications, like native apps could. iOS 17.4 beta users reported that when they opened a web app while running the iOS beta, the system asked them if they wanted to open the app in Safari or cancel. The message states that the web app “will now open in your default browser,” it says. Subsequently, users reported experiencing data loss issues as a Safari website shortcut did not offer local storage. Notifications no longer worked either.

However, there was reason to be cautious about whether the change was intentional or not. Multiple TechCrunch staff members repeatedly requested comment from Apple, but received no response. (We wanted to know if the company would confirm whether this was a beta bug or an intentional change, and if the latter, what Apple’s reasoning was.) After the next beta release, The edge released a report stating that Apple seems to be breaking PWAs in the EU, after likely getting a formal response from the tech giant.

Now Apple has responded, in its own way. Today he updated his website detailing its DMA-related changes in the EU to address the subject. In a new update, the company explains how it had to make so many changes to iOS to comply with EU guidelines that continued support for PWAs was simply irrelevant.

Traditionally, the iOS system supported home screen web apps by relying directly on WebKit (Safari’s browser engine) and its security architecture, Apple said. This allowed web applications to align with the same security and privacy models found in other native applications. But with the DMA, Apple is forced to allow alternative browser engines. He argues that without the isolation and enforcement of rules applied to WebKit-based web applications, malicious applications could be installed and capable of doing things like reading data from other web applications or “accessing the camera, microphone, or location of a user without assistance from the user.” consent,” Apple said.

“Addressing the complex security and privacy issues associated with web applications using alternative browser engines would require the creation of an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to undertake being given the other DMA requirements and very low user adoption. web applications from the home screen. So, to comply with DMA requirements, we had to remove web app functionality from the home screen in the EU,” the website reads.

The company is informing EU users that they will be able to access websites from their home screen via bookmarks following this change, confirming developers’ concerns that PWAs were effectively disabled in the EU.

“We expect this change to impact a small number of users. Nevertheless, we regret any impact that this change – which was made as part of the work to comply with the DMA – may have on home screen web application developers and our users,” says Apple.

Reviews to have argued that Apple’s desire to maintain its power in the iOS app ecosystem was so strong that it would disrupt the functionality of web apps for users of its devices. Apple’s defenders, meanwhile, will likely say the company’s explanation is reasonable and consistent with Apple’s desire to keep iOS secure for its users. The truth, as is often the case, probably lies more somewhere in between.

Apple has yet to respond to requests for comment.


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