Apple is making major changes to how web browsers work on iPhone for customers in the EU. iOS 17.4 will introduce the ability to set your preferred default browser the first time you launch Safari, and browser makers will be able to use other browser engines.
In First of all, this is changing the default browsers. Third-party browsers have long been present in the App Store, and Apple enabled default browser selection in iOS 14. Starting with iOS 17.4, the first time users launch Safari, they will be prompted to set a default browser, including Safari. Examples of third-party browsers:
- Microsoft Edge
- Google Chrome
- and DuckDuckGo.
For EU customers, Safari will now prompt users to set their default browser, making this option more visible.
As mentioned above, Apple is opening up the iPhone to allow third-party browsers that use different web engines than Safari. Third-party browsers could still control the appearance and feature sets, but the WebKit engine that powers Safari was the only web engine approved by Apple. Chrome, for example, only uses WebKit on iOS. Blink is the web engine used by Chrome on all other platforms.
With iOS 17.4, Apple is introducing new APIs that will allow developers to take advantage of these new features, including in-app browsers. Developers can learn more about the requirements here.
Again, both changes to web browser policy are only being implemented for iPhone customers in the European Union. Customers in the US and other non-EU countries will maintain the status quo: no default third-party browsers and no alternative web engines.
The moves are intended to bring Apple into compliance with the Digital Markets Act, which takes effect in March. Apple is also making other important changes to App Store policies and more.
- Apple announces fee cuts for apps in Europe.
- Apple announces support for third-party app stores for iPhone . in the EU, ships with iOS 17.4.
Correction: I previously stated that third-party browser functionality was new in iOS 17.4 for EU markets. This feature is available in all markets starting in 2020. The default browser update is specifically a new prompt when you first launch Safari in iOS 17.4. My apologies!