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Developers pressuring Apple to allow third-party browser engines on iOS

By Roland Udvarlaki March 2, 2022, 7:30 am
Apple Webkit Chromium browser Source: Pocketnow

In the past few years, Apple received multiple complaints and lawsuits over its anti-competitive behavior and bad practices, and the flow of bad news doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon. Developers teamed up and created ‘Open Web Advocacy’ to make Apple change its mind about forcing WebKit on all of the browsers used on iOS and iPadOS.

The group of developers want Apple to allow iOS to use other third-party browser engines, such as Chromium. The group is also asking Apple to provide access to features that can be used by Safari, which aren’t available to other third-party browsers (via 9to5Mac).

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At its current state, Apple forces all browsers to use Apple’s WebKit engine. The WebKit engine is responsible for loading all of the content that you see on the web when using Safari, Chrome, Opera, and other third-party web browsers on iOS or iPadOS. Opera and Google Chrome use the Chromium engine, which is the open wide standard that’s used on the majority of smartphones, tablets, and computers.

The group of developers told The Register why they wanted to see some significant changes in the iOS platform and talked about the goal of the group.

"The motive of the group is to try to persuade Apple that they need to allow other browser engines on iOS, so the iOS can be a better platform for developing stuff for the modern web," explained Lawson. "Because at the moment, every browser on iOS, whether it be badged Chrome, Firefox or Edge is actually just a branded skin of Safari, which lags behind [other browsers] because it has no competition on iOS."

Apple’s rendering engine works great for the most part. While general websites will often look and function the same as on Google’s Chromium engine, there are some compatibility issues. The user interface can be broken at times, even on some larger websites. The other major concern is the lockdown of iOS. Third-party browsers are not allowed to use the Apple Pay integration, and the likes of Web NFC, and many APIs that Chromium and other popular web engines support are missing, and Apple often takes years until it finally adds support.

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