iOS 17.4 Nerfs Web Apps in the EU

Apple has seemingly restricted the functionality of Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the latest beta of iOS 17.4, specifically targeting users within the European Union. The move appears to undermine the role of PWAs as viable alternatives to native apps in iOS.

iOS 17
As first flagged by security researcher Tommy Mysk and Open Web Advocacy, the second beta release of iOS 17.4 seems to introduce changes that put web apps at a significant disadvantage in Europe. The new beta version of iOS prevents these apps from launching in their own top-level window that takes up the entire screen, relegating them instead to open within Safari, a change that significantly impacts their user experience and functionality. The move effectively demotes PWAs to mere website shortcuts.

Now, when a user in Europe taps a web app icon, they will see a system message asking if they wish to open it in Safari or cancel. The message adds that the web app "will open in your default browser from now on." When opened in Safari, the web app opens like a bookmark, with no dedicated windowing, notifications, or long-term local storage. Users have seen issues with existing web apps such as data loss, since the Safari version can no longer access local data, as well as broken notifications.

Progressive Web Apps are designed to offer a user experience comparable to that of native apps using web technologies, with the potential for users to add them directly to their home screen with no need for an app store. The latest change is particularly controversial because historically Apple has suggested that developers who are unwilling to comply with its App Store guidelines could instead focus on web apps. Now, the company's recent adjustments appear to contradict this stance by limiting the capabilities of PWAs and their ability to compete with native applications in iOS, raising questions about its commitment to supporting web technologies as a viable alternative to the ‌App Store‌.

This development comes amid Apple's moves to comply with the European Union's Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to promote competition and regulate the practices of digital "gatekeepers." Apple's decision to alter the functionality of PWAs specifically in the EU could be interpreted as an attempt to navigate the regulatory landscape imposed by the DMA, but it may simply want to prevent users in Europe from using web apps with alternative browser engines. The company has not yet commented on its motivations.

There are indications that iOS 17.4 is using SIM carrier information to geo-lock the changes to web app functionality singularly to users in the EU. Web apps in other regions around the world remain unaffected.

Popular Stories

iPhone 16 Pro Sizes Feature

iPhone 16 Series Is Just Two Months Away: Everything We Know

Monday July 15, 2024 4:44 am PDT by
Apple typically releases its new iPhone series around mid-September, which means we are about two months out from the launch of the iPhone 16. Like the iPhone 15 series, this year's lineup is expected to stick with four models – iPhone 16, iPhone 16 Plus, iPhone 16 Pro, and iPhone 16 Pro Max – although there are plenty of design differences and new features to take into account. To bring ...
maxresdefault

Apple's AirPods Pro 2 vs. Samsung's Galaxy Buds3 Pro

Saturday July 13, 2024 8:00 am PDT by
Samsung this week introduced its latest earbuds, the Galaxy Buds3 Pro, which look quite a bit like Apple's AirPods Pro 2. Given the similarities, we thought we'd compare Samsung's new earbuds to the AirPods Pro. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. Design wise, you could potentially mistake Samsung's Galaxy Buds3 Pro for the AirPods Pro. The Buds3 Pro have the same...
Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

10 Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Monday July 8, 2024 5:00 am PDT by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models simultaneously, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different – already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
macbook pro january

Best Buy's Black Friday in July Sale Takes Up to $700 Off M3 MacBook Pro for Members

Monday July 15, 2024 11:05 am PDT by
Best Buy's "Black Friday in July" sale is in full swing today, and in addition to a few iPad Air discounts we shared earlier, there are also some steep markdowns on the M3 MacBook Pro. You will need a My Best Buy Plus or Total membership in order to get some of these deals. Note: MacRumors is an affiliate partner with Best Buy. When you click a link and make a purchase, we may receive a small...
Generic iOS 18 Feature Real Mock

Apple Seeds Revised Third Betas of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 to Developers

Monday July 15, 2024 10:09 am PDT by
Apple today seeded updated third betas iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 to developers for testing purposes, with the software coming a week after Apple initially released the third betas. Registered developers are able to opt into the betas by opening up the Settings app, going to the Software Update section, tapping on the "Beta Updates" option, and toggling on the ‌iOS 18/iPadOS 18‌ Developer Beta ...
ipaos 18 image playground

Apple Releases First iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 Public Betas

Monday July 15, 2024 1:16 pm PDT by
Apple today provided the first betas of iOS 18 and iPadOS 18 to public beta testers, bringing the new software to the general public for the first time since the Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Apple has seeded three developer betas so far, and the first public beta includes the same content that's in the third developer beta. Subscribe to the MacRumors YouTube channel for more videos. ...

Top Rated Comments

Merode Avatar
23 weeks ago
With those anti-consumer actions I'll seriously consider Android when I'll be switching my phone in 3 years. I've been using iPhone since 4S. From my point of view those actions are a middle finger pointed at my face. So be it.
Score: 63 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mrkevinfinnerty Avatar
23 weeks ago
They are doing this to keep us safe. Everytime you use a web app a child is put at risk. Please give generously via IAP.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
augustrushrox Avatar
23 weeks ago
Way to go Apple! Once again leading the way in petty absurdities. 
Score: 47 Votes (Like | Disagree)
telepheedian Avatar
23 weeks ago
It seems that it's not a universal removal of PWAs in the EU, rather, the requirements for iOS to treat a webpage as a PWA are now tighter, to ensure that the default browser selection made by the user is consistently respected, to be compliant with the new EU law:
[MEDIA=twitter]1755411290107863429[/MEDIA]
Score: 37 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BaldiMac Avatar
23 weeks ago

A web app that takes over the screen is definitely a recipe for disaster.
Huh?! The iPhone has supported this since the original iPhone.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rorschach Avatar
23 weeks ago
Sounds like what the law requires. If PWAs essentially use a chrome-less instance of Safari, how would that work with the requirement that users be allowed to choose their default browser and not be forced to use Apple's?

This won't be the last unintended consequence of this poorly thought-out law.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)