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Apple acknowledges its deliberate action to disable iPhone web applications in the European Union

It has been discovered that the malfunction affecting iPhone web applications, commonly referred to as progressive web apps (PWAs), in the EU is not caused by a software defect. Apple has addressed concerns raised by developers and media outlets over the loss of functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the European Union (EU) after the installation of the latest iOS betas. The company has now provided an explanation on its website. The IT giant attributes the shift to the new EU law, the Digital Markets Act (DMA), citing the complications associated with the DMA’s need to enable several browser engines as the underlying reason.

Security researcher Tommy Mysk and Open Web Advocacy were the first to observe that PWAs were downgraded to webpage shortcuts in the second beta version of iOS 17.4. At first, it was uncertain whether this issue was a beta bug or a deliberate attempt to weaken the performance of PWAs in the EU. This market now requires Apple to permit alternative app stores, third-party payments, and alternative browser engines, among other things. The PWAs, which usually enhance the functionality and user experience of web applications to resemble native iOS apps, ceased to operate in the betas. Developers observed that these online applications will launch in a manner similar to a bookmark that is kept on the home screen.

As noted by MacRumors, iOS 16.4 lacked features such as dedicated windowing, alerts, and long-term local storage. However, it did enable Progressive Web applications (PWAs) to display notifications on their icons, similar to native applications. During the testing phase of iOS 17.4, users saw a prompt while attempting to start a web app while using the beta version of iOS. The prompt offered the option to either open the app in Safari or abort the action. The notice states that the web application will now launch in your usual browser. Subsequently, customers reported encountering problems related to data loss since a Safari webpage shortcut lacks the capability to save data locally. Notifications ceased to function as well.

Nevertheless, there were grounds for exercising prudence about the deliberate nature of the alteration. crew made several requests to Apple for a comment but got no response. (We had inquired about the company’s confirmation about whether this issue was a beta glitch or a deliberate alteration, and if the latter, what Apple’s rationale behind it was.) Following the introduction of the latest beta version, The Verge published a story suggesting that Apple is potentially disabling PWAs in the EU. Additionally, it seems that the tech giant has not provided an official comment.

Apple has now issued a response in its characteristic manner. Today, the company updated its website to provide specific information on the improvements it has made in the EU regarding DMA-related issues. The firm has just provided an update, stating that due to the need to adhere to EU requirements, several modifications have been made to iOS. As a result, the company has decided to discontinue support for PWAs.

Apple said that the iOS system traditionally offered assistance for Home Screen web applications by directly using WebKit, which is Safari’s browser engine, along with its security framework. This enabled web applications to conform to the same security and privacy frameworks seen in other native applications. However, because of the DMA, Apple is compelled to permit the use of alternate browser engines. Apple contends that the absence of isolation and strict enforcement of regulations for WebKit-based online applications might lead to the installation of malevolent applications capable of unauthorized data access from other web applications or unauthorized use of a user’s camera, microphone, or location.

To tackle the intricate security and privacy issues related to web apps that utilize different browser engines, it would be necessary to develop a completely new integration framework. However, this is not currently available in iOS and was not feasible to pursue due to the other requirements of the DMA and the limited popularity of Home Screen web apps among users. The Home Screen web application functionality has to be removed in the EU in order to adhere to the criteria of the DMA.

The business notifies EU customers that they will have the ability to browse websites directly from their home screen via bookmarks due to the change. This confirms the worries of developers that Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) were being effectively blocked in the EU.

“We anticipate that this modification will impact a limited subset of users.” Apple expresses remorse for any potential consequences that the modification, implemented to adhere to the DMA, may have on developers of Home Screen web applications and consumers.

Critics contend that Apple’s determination to maintain its dominance in the iOS app ecosystem was so intense that it would compromise the operation of web apps for users of its devices. Apple’s proponents, on the other hand, are likely to assert that the company’s justification is rational and consistent with Apple’s commitment to maintaining the security of iOS for its consumers. The reality, as it often does, probably resides in a more balanced position.

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