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Apple confirms: It’s killing home screen web apps in the EU


No, it’s not a temporary issue in a beta version of iOS – Apple is officially killing home screen web apps, also known as progressive web apps (PWAs), for iPhone users in the EU.

Apple confirmed on Thursday that iOS will no longer support PWAs for users located in the European Union. The company announced the news in an update to its developer support page regarding the EU and the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Mashable was tipped off to the Apple support page changes by iOS developers and researchers at Mysk.

According to Apple, the move is a direct result of the DMA, a new EU regulation that requires companies like Apple to open up its core platforms to third-parties in order to spur competition. 

Apple supports PWAs in iOS through WebKit, the company’s proprietary browser engine that’s primarily used in its Safari browser. Under the DMA, Apple would be required to allow for home screen web apps built-upon alternative web browsers – without the need for Safari or WebKit. Apple claims that this could result in malicious web apps gaining access to users’ devices, so the company has opted to remove PWA-support entirely.

“Addressing the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps using alternative browser engines would require building an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to undertake given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps,” Apple says. “And so, to comply with the DMA’s requirements, we had to remove the Home Screen web apps feature in the EU.”

Apple’s DMA changes are for the worse

Last week, iOS developers in the EU began noticing the removal of PWA support in the latest beta version of iPhone’s mobile operating system, iOS 17.4 beta 2. At the time, some developers claimed that certain home screen web apps continued to operate, but certain features like web push notifications no longer functioned. Due to the varying degrees of operability, some questioned whether the issues PWAs were facing were the result of problems with the beta release, or if Apple was just in the midst of preparing web apps in the EU for DMA compliance.

Apple has now confirmed that it is indeed preparing PWAs for DMA compliance by removing them entirely.

This latest DMA-inspired change from Apple will likely open the company to further critiques from developers. Apple’s changes to its App Store in order to allow for alternative marketplaces to distribute non-Apple-approved iOS apps has already been roundly knocked by other tech giants like Meta, Microsoft, and Spotify.

Many, such as Epic Games CEO Tim Sweeney, have expressed that the EU regulations meant to provide consumers and developers alike with more options has ironically been perverted by Apple in an attempt to bring the company more revenue and control.

Apple claims that the removal of PWAs will affect only a small number of users and that these users can continue to access web apps via their website within mobile web browsers.

Apple’s entire statement regarding the removal of home screen web apps in the EU can be read below:

To comply with the Digital Markets Act, Apple has done an enormous amount of engineering work to add new functionality and capabilities for developers and users in the European Union — including more than 600 new APIs and a wide range of developer tools.

The iOS system has traditionally provided support for Home Screen web apps by building directly on WebKit and its security architecture. That integration means Home Screen web apps are managed to align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS, including isolation of storage and enforcement of system prompts to access privacy impacting capabilities on a per-site basis.

Without this type of isolation and enforcement, malicious web apps could read data from other web apps and recapture their permissions to gain access to a user’s camera, microphone or location without a user’s consent. Browsers also could install web apps on the system without a user’s awareness and consent. Addressing the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps using alternative browser engines would require building an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to undertake given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps. And so, to comply with the DMA’s requirements, we had to remove the Home Screen web apps feature in the EU.

EU users will be able to continue accessing websites directly from their Home Screen through a bookmark with minimal impact to their functionality. We expect this change to affect a small number of users. Still, we regret any impact this change — that was made as part of the work to comply with the DMA — may have on developers of Home Screen web apps and our users.





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