Friday, March 4, 2022 [Tweets] [Favorites]

Open Web Advocacy

Open Web Advocacy (via Tim Hardwick, tweet):

Apple’s ban of third party browsers on iOS is deeply anti-competitive, starves the Safari/WebKit team of funding and has stalled innovation for the past 10 years and prevented Web Apps from taking off on mobile.

That part we’ve already heard a lot about over the years, but they also make an important point about the limits on third-party iOS browsers that do use WebKit.

Thomas Claburn:

OWA organiser Stuart Langridge said not only is it the case that every iOS browser is just a re-skinned version of Safari but that the WebKit-based versions of Chrome, Edge, and Firefox are even less capable than WebKit-based Safari because they lack access to certain APIs that Apple makes available to its own browser.

As an example, he described how he has a shortcut to Wordle, a web app, on his iPhone home screen. “I normally use Firefox on iOS,” he explained. “And I had to switch back to Safari because you can’t add things to your home screen from another browser. It’s only available to Safari. So third-party browsers, even if they’re the same engine as Safari, don’t have access to the same APIs.”

Third-party browers also lack access to Security Code AutoFill and bookmarks.

Langridge acknowledges that different browser teams have different tolerance levels for new proposals, but says there’s a whole set of APIs that don’t raise security or privacy issues that Safari tends to fall behind on because of its slower release cadence – Safari updates tend to come out with iOS updates, often with months between releases, while Chrome ships every four weeks.

Previously:

3 Comments

Safari tends to fall behind on because of its slower release cadence – Safari updates tend to come out with iOS updates, often with months between releases, while Chrome ships every four weeks.

I must be the only person left on the planet who likes a “slow” release cadence (when did months become slow?). In fact, one of the things Apple is criticized for on OS releases is that their cadence is too fast.

Anyway, this is a complicated topic, but be careful what you wish for. A monoculture where Google dictates the future of browsers may be great for web developers, but not necessarily for users.

I thought we all agreed that a world where apple competes on a level playing ground (rather than by leveraging the fact that they own iOS) would be the most beneficial.

I.e. let others in on iOS and start making browser people pick because they want to, rather than have to.

>I.e. let others in on iOS and start making browser people pick because they want to, rather than have to.

But that isn't really how the browser market as ever worked? Netscape wasn't installed because people wanted it, but because ISPs shipped it on CDs, so it was easiest to choose. IE wasn't installed because people wanted it, but because the OS came with it. FIrefox was installed in part because of a big ad campaign, and because nerds told their family members to switch. Chrome was installed largely because of ad campaigns, including some on their own properties, including ones that suggested that your own browser was in some way broken.

The story of web browsers is full of "optimized for this browser" and "works best in that browser". Almost nobody ever picks a browser out of their own volition.

If Apple opens up the browser market on iOS, the theory goes that this will improve competition. But I don't buy at all that this will lead to a world where _multiple_ browsers are popular. Instead, we'll be seeing a lot of "oh, sorry, you can't use this website with your preferred browser".

Stay up-to-date by subscribing to the Comments RSS Feed for this post.

Leave a Comment