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Nerfs web apps for iOS 17.4 in EU

By Hartley Charlton

Apple appears to have limited the functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the latest iOS 17.4 beta, specifically targeting users in the European Union. The move appears to undermine PWA's role as a viable alternative to native apps on iOS.


How first noted by security researcher Tommy Mysk and Open Web Advocacy, the second beta of iOS 17.4 appears to introduce changes that put web apps in Europe at a disadvantage. The new iOS beta prevents these apps from running in their own top-level window that takes up the entire screen and instead leaves them open in Safari, which significantly impacts their user experience and functionality. This step essentially turns PWAs into simple website shortcuts.

Now, when a user in Europe taps the web app icon, they will see a system message asking if they want to open it in Safari or cancel. The post added that the web app “will now open in your default browser.” When opened in Safari, the web app opens as a bookmark, with no dedicated windows, notifications, or long-term local storage. Users have seen issues with existing web apps such as data loss as the Safari version can no longer access local data, as well as notifications not working.

Progressive web apps are designed to offer a user experience , comparable to this. native web-enabled apps that users can add directly to their home screen without the need for an app store. The latest change is particularly controversial, as Apple has historically encouraged developers who don't want to comply with App Store rules to focus on web apps instead. Now, the company's recent changes appear to contradict that position, limiting the capabilities of PWAs and their ability to compete with native iOS apps, raising questions about its commitment to supporting web technologies as a viable alternative to the ‌App Store‌.

It The development comes as Apple attempts to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to encourage competition and regulate the practices of digital gatekeepers. Apple's decision to change PWA functionality specifically in the EU can be interpreted as an attempt to navigate the regulatory environment imposed by the DMA, but it may simply want to prevent users in Europe from using web apps with alternative browser engines. The company has not yet commented on its motives.

There are indications that iOS 17.4 is using SIM card operator information to geo-block changes to web app functionality exclusively for users in the EU. Web applications in other regions of the world remain unchanged.

Tag: European Union[ 176 comments ]

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