Apple's setback to the EU: Web apps in iOS 17.4

In an unexpected twist, Apple has decided not to move forward with its plan to disable home screen web apps in the European Union with the iOS 17.4 update, responding to a wave of criticism from advocacy groups such as Open Web Advocacy and the attention of the European Commission.

The origin of the controversy

With the second beta version of iOS 17.4, it was revealed that Apple had restricted the functionality of web apps on iOS within the EU. These could no longer be launched from the home screen in their own top-level window, reducing them to a simple shortcut that offered the option to open within Safari.

In response to the DMA, Apple has decided to allow alternative app stores in the EU, albeit with a specific fee structure to maintain its quality standard.

Apple’s response to criticism

The move was heavily criticized, leading Apple to backtrack and state that home screen web apps using WebKit in the EU will continue to work as expected following the release of iOS 17.4. Apple cited "complex security and privacy concerns" as the original reason behind its plan, but has now decided to keep the existing home screen web app capability.

Problems for developers and users

This decision means that home screen web apps will continue to be built directly on top of WebKit and its security architecture, aligning with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS. Developers and users who might have been impacted by the removal of this functionality can expect the return of existing functionality with the availability of iOS 17.4 in March.

Compliance with the Digital Markets Act

Apple previously stated that it had to make the change to how web apps work on iOS to comply with the EU Digital Markets Act (DMA), arguing that third-party browsers used with web apps in Europe could expose users. to security and privacy risks. Apple still needs to make a number of changes to its platforms in the European Union, such as allowing third-party app stores, before the DMA deadline on March 6.

Apple’s reversal of its decision highlights the complexity of navigating the European regulatory landscape while trying to maintain innovation and security across technology platforms. This event highlights the importance of community feedback and dialogue with regulators in shaping the future of technology in ways that benefit both users and developers.

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