G'day, sport! Bruce here, with an update on progress we've made down under with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

ACCC published a Digital Platform Services Inquiry Discussion Paper (PDF) which has great news for competition in browsers and web apps.

They propose:

  1. Reversing the Apple browser ban
  2. Requiring equivalent access to hardware and software
  3. Allowing web apps to compete with single-platform "native" apps

Apple requires all browsers on iOS to be built using its WebKit browser engine. Further, Apple prevents WebKit from accessing certain APIs and iOS functionality, which restricts the functionality of web apps compared to native apps (for example, push notifications can be accessed by native apps but not web apps).

As a result, Apple iOS users do not have the option to use browsers that can offer a wider range of innovative features and functionality. Instead, they are limited to using browsers built using Apple’s WebKit browser engine. Stakeholders submit that, as a result, Safari faces very limited competitive pressure on iOS. We are also concerned that this limits the ability for web apps … to impose a competitive constraint on native apps.”

Apple, and to a lesser extent Google, have also restricted interoperability with hardware, software and functionality through their mobile OS for providers of third-party apps and services.

The ACCC is recommending introducing a new regulatory regime that will be able to compel gatekeepers to stop anti-competitive conduct. They note that reforms are underway globally and it would make sense to align Australia's new regulatory regime with ones such as the EU's Digital Markets Act, the UK's Digital Markets Unit and the Japan's Act on Improving Transparency and Fairness of Digital Platforms.

They clearly recognize the harm that the gatekeepers have on competition, businesses and consumers. The ACCC has a lovely shopping list of proposed legislated obligations, most of which will relate to browsers and web apps. The majority of OWA’s concerns (PDF) fit into these categories:

  • anti-competitive self-preferencing
  • anti-competitive tying
  • exclusive pre-installation and default agreements that hinder competition
  • impediments to consumer switching
  • impediments to interoperability
  • data-related barriers to entry and expansion, where privacy impacts can be managed
  • a lack of transparency
  • unfair dealings with business users
  • exclusivity and price parity clauses in contracts with business users.

The Australian Government is considering the ACCC’s recommendations and will consult publicly to seek the views of stakeholders.

We would like to thank Mozilla (PDF) and all of the individual developers and businesses who wrote to the ACCC in support of browser competition and web apps.

Stay tuned so we can let you know when the governmental consultation begins, so you can have your say if you do business in Australia.