Web Developers Rally Against Apple’s Anti-Competitive Browser Engine Rules on iOS

BY Anu Joy

Published 2 Mar 2022

A group of web developers has banded together to launch an “Open Web Advocacy” (OWA) project that challenges Apple to permit other browser engines on iOS. As part of this project, the group demands that developers should be granted access to the same features available in Safari’s iOS version.

The OWA project aims to encourage a more open web by helping lawmakers recognize anti-competitive aspects of web technology. The group has been conversing with the UK Competitions and Markets Authority (CMA) to shine a light on Apple’s anti-competitive iOS browser policy.

Read: Safari Could Get Website-Specific Dark Mode Toggle

Bruce Lawson, one of developers at the forefront of OWA, explained the group’s objective:

The motive of the group is to try to persuade Apple that they need to allow other browser engines on iOS, so the iOS can be a better platform for developing stuff for the modern web. Because at the moment, every browser on iOS, whether it be badged Chrome, Firefox or Edge is actually just a branded skin of Safari, which lags behind [other browsers] because it has no competition on iOS.

The OWA group’s main issue with Apple’s iOS App Store Guidelines is that it requires every browser running on iOS to be based on WebKit. OWA organiser Stuart Langridge added that the WebKit-based versions of Chrome, Edge, and Firefox are even less capable than WebKit-based Safari because they don’t have access to certain APIs that are available to Apple’s own browser.

The iPhone maker started allowing users to change the default browser with iOS 14. However, since all browsers must use the WebKit engine and they don’t have access to the same set of APIs as Safari, the experience they offer is not as good as Apple’s offering.

The Cupertino-based company may be forcing WebKit adoption on iOS to gain more control over the web app experience. The firm may even have concerns over security and privacy. More importantly, allowing third-party browser engines to access all iOS APIs could adversely affect its App Store business.

[Via The Register]