Apple reverses stance on blocking web apps on iPhones in the EU

Apple has reversed its decision about blocking web apps, also known as Progressive Web Apps (PWAs), on iPhones in the EU. Last month, Apple reduced the functionality of PWAs as mere website shortcuts with the release of the second beta of iOS 17.4, as security researcher Tommy Mysk and Open Web Advocacy had first pointed out. The company then updated its developer page saying that because of security risks like malicious web apps reading data from other web apps and accessing cameras, it decided to end support for home screen apps. Apple also said that PWAs had “very low user adoption” so there might not be a lot of impact on users. Separately, the Open Web Advocacy group published an open letter addressed to Tim Cook to lift the ban on web apps, which was signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals including Mastodon, internet advocate Cory Doctorowand Vercel CTO Malte Ubl.

After facing criticism and pushback from developers and regulators, Apple has announced that it will be reversing its decision to block Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) on iPhones within the European Union.

The company has updated its developer page, stating that due to a high volume of requests for PWA support, the functionality will be reinstated in the upcoming public release of iOS 17.4.

PWAs offer the convenience and features of native apps without taking up valuable space on your device. These web-based apps can also send notifications and maintain login status.

In the previous beta release of iOS 17.4, Apple had reduced PWAs to mere website shortcuts, drawing criticism from security researcher Tommy Mysk and the Open Web Advocacy group. Citing potential security risks such as malicious apps accessing data from other apps and the device’s camera, Apple made the decision to end support for home screen PWAs.

However, the move faced backlash from regulators, leading to an investigation into the issue. The Financial Times reported that regulators began sending questions to developers about Apple’s decision. Separately, the Open Web Advocacy group penned an open letter to CEO Tim Cook, urging him to lift the ban on web apps. The letter was signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals, including Mastodon, internet advocate Cory Doctorow, and Vercel CTO Malte Ubl.

Apple acknowledged the outcry and concerns surrounding the ban, stating that PWAs had low user adoption. However, the company’s decision did not align with the demands of the market and prompted further action from regulators and advocacy groups. In response, Apple has decided to reinstate support for PWAs in the upcoming public release of iOS 17.4.

Full text of Apple’s update:

“Apple has received a significant number of requests from developers to support Progressive Web Apps and we have decided to reinstate support for these apps in the next public release of iOS 17.4. While our initial decision was rooted in security concerns, we recognize the value and demand for PWAs and will continue to prioritize the needs of our users and developers.”

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Kira Kim

Kira Kim is a science journalist with a background in biology and a passion for environmental issues. She is known for her clear and concise writing, as well as her ability to bring complex scientific concepts to life for a general audience.

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