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Apple back tracks on its decision to disable progressive web apps in the EU

Apple stated that these apps will need to be built directly on WebKit, which is the web browser engine used by Safari.

Apple has reversed its plans to disable progressive web applications (PWAs) in the European Union (EU), according to a recent update on its developer page. Progressive web apps are websites that look and behave like mobile apps. They can send web push notifications, work offline, and be accessible from the home screen, similar to mobile apps from app stores. The company states that these apps will need to be built directly on WebKit, the web browser engine used by Safari. This, Apple says, will ensure that the apps align with the security architecture and models used by WebKit and native iOS apps. Apple says users can expect existing web app support to carry over to iOS 17.4, which is when the company will roll out changes to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Some context:

In January 2024, Apple announced several changes to its polices its App Store, browser, and payments to ensure compliance with DMA. One such change was that web browsers would no longer have to use Apple’s WebKit engine. Because of this change, Apple said that it would no longer allow web apps as it would “require building an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS,” implying that Apple would have to make web apps compatible with other browser engines apart from WebKit to comply with DMA. This “was not practical given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of these apps,” Apple added.

Explaining the significance of WebKit’s security infrastructure, Apple said that it prevents web apps from accessing data or permissions from other apps without user consent. Without such protections, malicious web apps could potentially steal data, access the camera/microphone, or track location without permission, the company said.

Pushback towards the plan to disable web apps:

Apple’s decision to disable web apps faced criticism, with the Open Web Advocacy, a nonprofit organization advocating for the open web, writing an open letter arguing that this action would “threaten critical features including integration with iOS, push notifications, unread count badging, and the ability to run full screen.”

The Open Web Advocacy stated that Apple’s concerns about the security and privacy of web apps are unfounded. “Web Apps provide safe computing that puts users in control through their browsers, and iOS opening up to competing browser engines will enhance, rather than erode, security and privacy,” its letter explained. It pointed out that Apple’s arguments regarding the safety of competing browsers “have been conclusively rejected by regulators worldwide, and this situation is no different.”

According to a report by The Verge, the European Commission had also been investigating Apple’s decision to discontinue progressive web apps. The commission confirmed sending requests to Apple and app developers to assess the situation.

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