Apple confirms iOS 17.4 disables web apps on the Home screen in the European Union

By Julie Clover

In the second beta version of iOS 17.4, Apple disabled most progressive web app (PWA) features in the European Union. There was some speculation that this could be a temporary change or a bug related to some updates to the app ecosystem in Europe, but Apple has confirmed that PWAs were intentionally removed and will not return.

In an update on the developer website (via 9to5Mac), Apple explains that users in the EU will not be able to access the Home Screen web app from -for support of alternative browser engines and associated security risks, as well as the work required to implement a new solution.

According to Apple, ‌Home Screen‌ web apps are built on WebKit and its security architecture and are designed to “comply with the privacy and security model for native apps on iOS.” Storage isolation and system requests to access privacy features on a per-site basis are critical.

Without isolation, Apple says malicious web apps can read data from other web apps and access the camera and microphone user. and location without user consent. To address these security concerns, Apple would need to create a new integration architecture, which it says is impractical due to other Digital Markets Act requirements and because ‌Home Screen‌ Few people use web applications.

iOS has traditionally provided support for Home screen web apps by relying directly on WebKit and its security architecture. This integration means that Home screen web apps are managed according to the security and privacy model of native iOS apps, including storage isolation and enforcement of system requests to access privacy-sensitive features on a site-by-site basis.

Without this type of isolation and enforcement, malicious web applications can read data from other web applications and re-gain their permissions to gain access to the user's camera, microphone, or location without the user's consent. Browsers can also install web applications on a system without the user's knowledge or consent. 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 which was impractical to implement given the other DMA requirements and the very low rate of user adoption of the Web -home screen applications. Therefore, to comply with DMA requirements, we had to remove the web apps feature on the EU Home Screen.

iPhone users in the European Union can access websites directly from the ‌Home Screen‌ via a bookmark, but PWA features will not be available. Web applications on the ‌Home screen‌ will be forced to open in Safari (or other default browser) rather than the dedicated window, long-term local storage is not supported, and notifications will not work.

Apple says the changes are a direct result of DMA compliance and only a “small number of users” will be affected. The company also states that it regrets the impact this change will have on the developers of ‌Home Screen‌ web applications and ‌iPhone‌ users.

Updating ‌Home screen‌ web apps are accompanied by many other changes to the App Store in the European Union: Apple is allowing alternative app stores, alternative payment methods, different browser systems and more.

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