Apple reverses decision to kill home screen web apps in the EU

Home screen web apps will continue to be available on the iPhone after Apple reverses a previous decision to kill the feature off.

Apple reverses decision to kill home screen web apps in the EU
Apple iPhone

Good news, iOS users in the EU!

Apple has announced that it's reversing its previously announced decision to no longer support home screen web apps, also known as Progressive Web Apps (PWA), on the iPhone. As of Friday, March 1, 2024, EU users will continue to be able to install and use home screen web apps on iOS going forward. 

The home screen web app feature allows users to install certain websites as standalone apps on their iOS devices. This allows users to have quick access to websites, as well as other app functionalities, that may not have an iOS application.

Certain developers and users in the EU who had installed the most recent beta version of iOS were surprised to find that it removed home screen web app capabilities. But they can soon expect an update which restores the feature on their devices. Apple says iOS 17.4, which will be released in early march, will return the functionality to those users.

Why did Apple remove home screen web apps in the EU to begin with?

The Digital Markets Act (DMA) is a new EU regulation that requires companies like Apple to open up their core platforms in order to spur competition in markets where big tech has overwhelming power and influence.

For example, under the DMA, Apple has been forced to allow alternative marketplaces to compete with the App Store when it comes to distributing apps on the iPhone.

Apple is currently preparing for the Digital Markets Act (DMA) to officially go into effect in the EU this month. Along with the required App Store change, Apple has made other tweaks as mandated by the DMA. However, Apple's interpretation of these new regulations has resulted in the company making controversial decisions which have sparked criticism from other big tech companies. 

Meta, Microsoft, Spotify, and others have blasted Apple for its DMA-inspired app distribution scheme. For instance, developers balked when they learned that they may actually end up having to pay Apple more to put their app in an alternative marketplace than they would have if they just continued to operate within the official App Store. 

Microsoft and Meta have both lobbied to the EU to take action against Apple's new policies, arguing that Apple's "malicious compliance" does not uphold the actual intent of the DMA regulations.

When it comes to home screen web apps, Apple previously claimed that the DMA would force Apple to alter its home screen web app rules as well. The company said that due to vulnerabilities and potential malicious uses, it was going to kill off the feature.

"Previously, Apple announced plans to remove the Home Screen web apps capability in the EU as part of our efforts to comply with the DMA," Apple said in their new statement regarding the reversal of their decision to discontinue PWAs on iOS. "The need to remove the capability was informed by the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps to support alternative browser engines that would require building a new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS."

"We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU," the statement from Apple continued. "This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS."

Apple's recent response is remarkable as the company previously stated that its decision to just remove home screen web apps was because it had "very low user adoption." Apparently, the blowback was significant enough for the company to reconsider.

So, Apple has officially reversed course on one unpopular decision that it once claimed was necessary due to the new EU regulations. Time will tell if Apple will decide – or be forced — change its unpopular alternative marketplace policies too.

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