Alternative browsers to Safari yes on iOS, but testing must take place in Europe

Alternative browsers to Safari yes on iOS, but testing must take place in Europe

Based on the provisions contained in the European Digital Markets Act (DMA), Apple is opening up to the use of rendering alternatives to Webkit for browsers. The innovation introduced in iOS 17.4 represents a “change of direction” of colossal proportions. Although it is the result of a regulatory imposition, this is the first time in which alternative browsers to Safari such as Chrome, Firefox e Opera they can run on iPhone and other iOS devices using their own engine, without the restrictions resulting from the forced use of Apple Webkit.

However, there is a final twist that cannot be ignored. Apple is limiting development and testing of these browser engines third parties only to devices physically located within the borders of the European Union. This means that browser developers whose development team is located outside the EU, as can often be the case, can tESTING their browsers only on simulators that run on Macs and other devices, but not on real iPhones.

Apple DMA compliance leaves some doubts: here’s why

You know what the geofencing? It is a mechanism that creates a sort of virtual perimeter around a specific geographical area: the device is able to detect when the user enters or leaves the previously set area. To then possibly trigger a series of actions.

Here, in this case Apple has invented a sort of geofencing for developers. In short, anyone who creates applications for iOS must reside in the European Union if they want to try them on their own on physical devices. An additional requirement that effectively raises an additional barrier for anyone, not located in the Old Continent, who is interested in developing and supporting a browser with a alternative engine to WebKit.

Some developers of Web browsers proposed as replacements for Safari have complained that Apple’s concessions – which came after DMA approval – appear designed to make “as painful as possible to provide competitive alternatives“. This is what he claims, for example, Mozilla. Which invites you to check the extensive list of requirements defined by Apple to offer, in European countries, a browser engine other than WebKit. There geographic restriction for development and testing only exacerbates the picture.

Thumbs down from browser developers

Parisa TabrizVP of engineering and general manager of the Chrome project (Google), had rejected the changes applied by Apple, defining the Cupertino company’s strategy “overly restrictive and unable to lead to real choice for browser developers“.

Alex Mooreexecutive director of Open Web Advocacyan organization that is passionate about promoting the open web, added that by preventing engineers around the world from working on real browsers, running on a physical iOS device (unless they are physically located in the European Union), Apple would be complicating healthy competition and could also make software distribution activities themselves more complicated.

It remains to be seen whether Apple will change its policy that limits testing of new browsers on devices outside the EU.

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