Since the beginning, in classic Apple fashion, no other web browser engines outside of Webkit have been allowed on iOS. So the Chrome you run on an Android phone is quite different under the hood when compared with the one that you get on iOS and iPadOS. Apple has instead forced companies like Google and Mozilla to ship less-optimized versions of their browsers (Chrome and Firefox) for iPhone and the result has always been limited functionality, hindered performance, and an overall restricted browsing experience.
And we all know why this is. It isn’t really about safety or security (Google clearly knows how to handle themselves in this arena as ChromeOS has exactly 0 (zero) ransomware attacks to date), is it? No, instead, Apple has kept this restriction in place simply to make its own browser – Safari – the best option for the multitudes of people who buy an iPhone. If other browser options are limited versions of themselves (Chrome should be running on the Blink engine, not Webkit for example) on iPhone, most users will simply default to Safari instead. Classic Apple move, there.
A change is finally coming
In a massive shift to this narrative, Apple is being influenced (forced) by new regulations in the European Union (EU) to bring a significant change to the way they’ve traditionally operated. For the first time, Apple will be allowing alternative browser engines on iOS. But there’s a catch: it’s only in the EU for now.
With iOS 17.4, developers can now opt to use non-WebKit engines for their browsers or in-app browsers, though it is still subject to Apple’s authorization that is contingent on meeting specific criteria and committing to ongoing privacy and security measures. The implications are significant, however, offering enhanced features like Passkeys and multiprocessing, previously unavailable to iOS users outside of Safari.
The entire thing is a direct response to the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), which advocates for greater consumer choice and challenges the monopolistic practices of tech giants like Apple (and Google, too). The Act encourages interoperability and the freedom for users to uninstall preinstalled apps, including web browsers. Apple’s decision to comply is definitely not something they are excited by, but I’m glad it is happening either way.
Anything that loosens Apple’s grip a bit on their software requirements is a win in my book. The way things have been in the web browser space on iOS is absolutely anti-competitive and it needs to change. If Google can build a better browser for the iPhone, so be it. As the largest phone maker in the world these days, some of the apps that become available for the iPhone will simply be better than Apple’s own solution, and that needs to be part of the overall user experience.
And for people like me who fear the dreadful day that iPhone takes over and there is no other choice out there, at least I’m starting to feel hopeful that if that awful reality ever happens, at least the Google services I like and choose to use may eventually have a shot of working the way they were intended to instead of being deliberately undercut by Apple’s practices. Well, at least for part of the world, anyway.