EU could force Apple to allow competing browser engines on iOS
Why is this important: Currently, Apple requires all iOS web browsers to use WebKit, the engine for its Safari browser. Many see the policy as anti-competitive, and it could become the target of the European Union’s next Digital Markets Act.
Recently, an unpublished draft of European Union legislation was leaked. The new Digital Markets Bill (DMA) adds language distinguishing web browser engines for protection against “gatekeepers”. This looks like a direct attack on Apple’s requirement that iOS browsers use its WebKit engine.
The legislation states that when a gatekeeper imposes a browser engine on developers, they effectively control the functionality of a platform’s browsers and other web-based software applications. If DMA takes effect with this language, it could force Apple to allow alternative browser engines, such as Chromium. On PCs, Chromium is the basis of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Opera, and many other browsers.
Developers will likely celebrate the new settlement. Earlier this year, a group of developers formed Open Web Advocacy, with an end to Apple’s WebKit requirement as their primary goal. The group says imposing WebKit on developers stifles innovation and threatens the entire future of app development.
Web browsers aren’t the only area where DMA attacks Apple policy. In March, the European Council and the European Parliament agreed on the wording of the law that would require holders of platforms like Google and Apple to allow alternative payment methods and the sideloading of apps. Apple will certainly try to fight the legislation.