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Apple damages PWAs in tantrum against the EU

Apple’s recent changes to its platform guidelines for iOS, particularly in the context of the European Union’s Digital Markets Act, appear to put web apps at a disadvantage. In the second beta release of iOS 17.4, Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have been demoted from standalone apps that use the whole screen to shortcuts that open within the default browser. This change seems to only affect users in the European Union, though the impact may vary.

Concerns regarding this demotion of PWAs surfaced earlier this month with the release of the initial iOS 17.4 beta. Sites installed to the home screen failed to launch in their own top-level activities, opening in Safari instead. PWAs are supposed to enable web apps (sites) to function more like native apps on mobile devices but, according to Mysk, a business that develops iOS applications, Apple has intentionally disabled these features rather than repairing the bugs.

This change is likely to cause users to lose local data in existing web apps since web apps and Safari have different storage locations. Additionally, the lack of support for notifications without app installation will break notifications for PWAs. The Register has noted that Apple’s changes seem more like a “malicious compliance” with European law rather than an actual solution to improve the platform for web developers.

As a long-time observer of Apple’s policies, it comes as no surprise that this tech giant would take measures against Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) – an option that could challenge its hegemony in the mobile app market. In recent events, Apple has been enforcing stricter regulations on developers and users alike, showing its inclination towards maintaining control over its ecosystem.

This move by Apple appears to be yet another strategic maneuver against the growth and adoption of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), which have the potential to offer an alternative to native iOS apps, circumventing the need for the proprietary Apple App Store. PWAs are designed to function more like traditional mobile applications but without requiring users to install them via the App Store, thereby freeing themselves from Apple’s “Apple tax” on developers and its stringent guidelines.

Given this situation, one cannot help but wonder whether it would be wise to continue supporting and investing in Apple products and services. This is a strong reminder that not only do we need to stay updated about our chosen platforms, but also about how those platforms are evolving in ways that might limit or even challenge our personal freedoms.

Sources: The Register and 9to5Mac | Image by Leonardo AI