The big picture: Regulators and developers have long criticized some of Apple’s restrictions on iOS, including the requirement that all web browsers use the Apple WebKit engine. As regulators grapple with the tech giant’s policies, some may already be preparing for a less restrictive iOS environment.
Chromium bug reports show that Google is currently creating a new web browser for iOS based on Blink, which would violate Apple’s rule that all browsers on the platform use WebKit. Google insists that the project is just an experiment, but can wait until Apple’s WebKit requirement is canceled under regulatory pressure.
The bug report describes the development as a test of graphics and input latency, and not as a product that Google intends to provide to end users. However, a source told The Register that the browser, although very early and lacking important features, looks like the basis for an alternative iOS browser.
Google can wait to see what happens to the WebKit rule, which regulators and developers have been increasingly examining in recent months. If Apple allows the use of other browser engines, it will be beneficial for Google to have one waiting in the wings with advanced functionality.
Last summer, Telegram founder Pavel Durov said that Apple’s policy is a scheme that forces developers to create separate applications that are subject to a 30 percent commission on App Store sales. Durov said that if Apple had done more to support WebKit or allowed browser developers to use other engines, many companies could provide the services they need through mobile web pages rather than supporting applications.
Apple’s ban on alternative browser engines has also been criticized by UK, US and EU regulators. The recently adopted EU Law on Digital Markets may force Apple to allow the use of other browser engines and alternative application distribution channels over the next few years. The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration also opposed the company’s restrictions earlier this month.
Meanwhile, Cupertino insists that its strict controls make products safer for users. At the end of last month, he criticized the proposals of the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) regarding restrictions on mobile browsers and cloud games.
The CMA has been investigating Apple’s browser and cloud computing policies for several months, calling them anti-competitive. The remedies offered by the regulatory body include allowing the use of other browser engines, cloud gaming applications, downloads of unpublished applications, etc. Cupertino claims that the CMA’s proposals fall outside the scope of its investigation due to a general bias against the company’s software policy.
As regulators rebel against Apple’s walled garden, it’s no surprise that Google is planning massive changes that could affect iOS.