- Aug 28, 2015
SPECIAL REPORT Europe's Digital Markets Act – near-finalized legislation to tame the internet's gatekeepers – contains language squarely aimed at ending Apple's iOS browser restrictions.
The Register has received a copy of unpublished changes in the proposed act, and among the various adjustments to the draft agreement is the explicit recognition of "web browser engines" as a service that should be protected from anti-competitive gatekeeper-imposed limitations.
Apple requires that competing mobile browsers distributed through the iOS App Store use its own WebKit rendering engine, which is the basis of its Safari browser. The result is that Chrome, Edge, and Firefox on iOS are all, more or less, Safari.
That requirement has been a sore spot for years among rivals like Google, Mozilla, and Microsoft. They could not compete on iOS through product differentiation because their mobile browsers had to rely on WebKit rather than their own competing engines.
And Apple's browser engine requirement has vexed web developers, who have been limited to using only the web APIs implemented in WebKit for their web apps. Many believe this barrier serves to steer developers toward native iOS app development, which Apple controls.
The extent to which Apple profits from the status quo has prompted regulatory scrutiny in Europe, the UK, the US, and elsewhere. Blog posts from web tech advocates like Alex Russell, Epic Games' antitrust complaint against Apple, and lobbying efforts like the formation of Open Web Advocacy have ensured that regulatory remedies being formulated to address allegations of anticompetitive behavior by Apple consider the impact of browser engine restrictions.