Apple Walks Back Decision to Disable Home Screen Web Apps in the EU

Following intense criticism, Apple today walked back its plan to disable Home Screen web apps in the European Union starting with iOS 17.4.

iOS 17
Following the release of the second beta version of iOS 17.4, it emerged that Apple had restricted the functionality of iOS web apps in the EU. Web apps could no longer launch from the ‌Home Screen‌ in their own top-level window that takes up the entire screen, relegating them to a simple shortcut with an option to open within Safari instead.

The move was heavily criticized by groups like Open Web Advocacy, which started a petition in an effort to persuade Apple to reverse the change, and it even caught the attention of the European Commission. Now, Apple has backtracked and says that ‌Home Screen‌ web apps that use WebKit in the EU will continue to function as expected upon the release of iOS 17.4. In an update posted on Apple's developer website, the company said:

Previously, Apple announced plans to remove the Home Screen web apps capability in the EU as part of our efforts to comply with the DMA. The need to remove the capability was informed by the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps to support alternative browser engines that would require building a new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS.

We have received requests to continue to offer support for Home Screen web apps in iOS, therefore we will continue to offer the existing Home Screen web apps capability in the EU. This support means Home Screen web apps continue to be built directly on WebKit and its security architecture, and align with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS.

Developers and users who may have been impacted by the removal of Home Screen web apps in the beta release of iOS in the EU can expect the return of the existing functionality for Home Screen web apps with the availability of iOS 17.4 in early March.

Apple previously claimed that it had to make the change to how web apps work in iOS to comply with the EU's Digital Markets Act (DMA), arguing that third-party browsers used with web apps in Europe could expose users to unlawful security and privacy risks. It believed that the adjustment would only affect a small number of users. Apple still needs to make a range of changes to its platforms in the European Union, such as allowing third-party app stores, by the DMA's deadline of March 6.

Top Rated Comments

turbineseaplane Avatar
6 weeks ago

The move ....

even caught the attention of the European Commission ('https://www.macrumors.com/2024/02/26/disabled-web-apps-attract-eu-scrutiny/').

Now, Apple has backtracked
Some good news!

Thank you to the EU for forcing Apple down some roads it should already be taking ... even if they don't want to.
Score: 48 Votes (Like | Disagree)
till Avatar
6 weeks ago
Apple consistently has a...creative interpretation of the DMA. I'm eagerly awaiting the evaluation from regulators which should be coming in a few weeks.
Score: 25 Votes (Like | Disagree)
ThatsMeRight Avatar
6 weeks ago
What Apple is doing with iOS 17.4 is called malicious compliance.

Their lawyers will surely have checked everything and clearly they believe they can get away with it. It's a risky endeavor for Apple, since the fines are very significant - even for a company like Apple.

In this case, there were already some hints that this was something the EU could easily act on. Wise decision to revert. Probably won't be enough, though.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PsykX Avatar
6 weeks ago
It was a bad idea from the very beginning.
I don't live in Europe, but I'm glad for Europeans that Apple reversed course on this stupid decision.
Score: 20 Votes (Like | Disagree)
haemolysis Avatar
6 weeks ago

People don’t seem to realize that the EU regulation is such that you don’t know you are in violation until the EU tells you that you are. It was actually up to Apple to interpret the DMA the way they did and hope they got it right. Now because of backlash they will do it another way and also hope the EU is fine with it (spoiler they won’t be).
Such nonsense. Apple have been directly engaged in this process for months in which the spirit of the law has been made extremely clear. Apple is deliberately attempting to obfuscate that intent by “technical compliance” without opening up their platform… when the intentions of the law which are clearly: just open up the platform.

They are banking on legal battles, delays, appeals, etc. But at the end of the day, the EU is not going to lie down and say “ohhhh I guess they got us on these technicalities and loopholes!!” They’ll simply just close the loopholes.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
NT1440 Avatar
6 weeks ago

So basically apple thought they couldn’t offer web apps using webkit because of the DMA regulations and it wasn’t worth their time rewriting how it works so scrapped web apps in the eu, uproar follows and it actually turns out using webkit for these is ok? It’s good to know the regulations are clear!
A careful reading shows that they’ve just re-enabled WebKit.

Their concerns about having to rearchitect the security posture to allow 3rd party web engines still stands, and I assume it will done via iOS 18 (.1,.2,.3, who knows).

If the EU decides to take issue. Apple can now point to the immediate need for the WebKit version that developers have brought up while simultaneously engineering their solution for 3rd party engines at a later date.
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)