Apple Addresses PWA Disruption in the EU

Apple Addresses PWA Disruption in the EU

Mihir Gadhvi 18/02/2024
Apple Addresses PWA Disruption in the EU

Apple has recently come under scrutiny for changes affecting Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the European Union, particularly in response to the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Developers and users noticed a downgrade in PWA functionality, prompting speculation about whether it was a beta bug or a deliberate move by Apple to undermine PWAs in the EU. Apple has now updated its website to clarify the situation, attributing the changes to complexities arising from DMA requirements, specifically the need to allow different browser engines.

The issue was first brought to light by security researcher Tommy Mysk and Open Web Advocacy, who observed that PWAs were demoted to website shortcuts after installing the second beta of iOS 17.4. This change affected the functionality of PWAs, which typically emulate native iOS apps and enhance the user experience. In the beta version, PWAs were opening as bookmarks saved to the Home Screen, lacking features like dedicated windowing, notifications, or long-term local storage.

Notably, the DMA in the EU mandates Apple to permit alternative app stores, third-party payments, and alternative browser engines. Apple's compliance with these regulations has led to significant changes, impacting the support for Home Screen web apps. The company explained that traditionally, iOS supported Home Screen web apps by building on WebKit, Safari's browser engine, ensuring alignment with security and privacy models found in native apps.

However, the DMA's requirement to allow alternative browser engines presented security challenges. Apple argued that without the isolation and enforcement rules applied to WebKit-based web apps, potential security risks, such as unauthorized access to user data or device features, could arise. To address these concerns, Apple decided to remove the Home Screen web apps feature in the EU.

The company emphasized that the complex security and privacy issues associated with web apps using alternative browser engines would necessitate building an entirely new integration architecture, which is not currently present in iOS. Apple asserted that this undertaking was not practical, given other DMA demands and the low user adoption of Home Screen web apps.

As a result of these changes, Apple informed EU users that they can still access websites from their Home Screen through bookmarks. While the company expects the impact on users to be minimal, it acknowledges the effect on developers of Home Screen web apps and users. Apple expressed regret for any inconvenience caused and attributed the alterations to DMA compliance.

Critics have suggested that Apple's motivation to maintain control in the iOS app ecosystem may have led to intentional disruptions in web app functionality. On the other hand, defenders argue that Apple's explanation aligns with its commitment to user safety. The truth likely lies between these perspectives, as Apple navigates the delicate balance between regulatory compliance and maintaining its ecosystem.

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Mihir Gadhvi

Tech Expert

Mihir Gadhvi is the co-founder of illustrake and HAYD. Illustrake is a D2C Enabler and offers Performance Marketing, Retention Marketing, and Content Creation Services. HAYD is a brand New, homegrown fashion line that aims to make clothing easy for us without taxing our planet. Although the concept is quite known now, HAYD wants to accomplish sustainability by reducing its impact on the environment with safe and fair manufacturing.

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