Howdy, Bruce here, with an update on progress we've made in both the EU and with the UK's competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

Browser engines on the agenda

We've had encouraging success at putting browser engines on the regulators' agenda. While rendering engines seem a pretty esoteric subject, it's of paramount importance: Apple has done a great job concealing its anti-competitive behaviour, saying "you can have other browsers on iOS" while glossing over the fact that all other browsers are Apple's mandated version of WebKit under the hood.

Many web developers don't realise this, which is why we made this meme:

Fred from Scooby Doo with a masked figure and text 'Firefox on iPhone'. Fred removes the mask to reveal the villain headed 'Apple's Safari'. Then the same with Edge on iPhone and Chrome on iPhone.

So we're thrilled that, after we met with those drafting the EU rules, the final text of the Digital Markets Act (DMA), browser engines are explicitly referenced:

In particular, each browser is built on a web browser engine, which is responsible for key browser functionality such as speed, reliability and web compatibility. When gatekeepers operate and impose web browser engines, they are in a position to determine the functionality and standards that will apply not only to their own web browsers, but also to competing web browsers and, in turn, to web software applications. Gatekeepers should therefore not use their position to require their dependent business users to use any of the services provided together with, or in support of, core platform services by the gatekeeper itself as part of the provision of services or products by those business users.

The DMA will be applicable as of beginning of May 2023. Non-compliance carries fines of up to 10% of the company’s total worldwide annual turnover, or up to 20% in the event of repeated infringements.

The UK is no longer a member of the EU, so some of us who are citizens of Brexit Island met with the UK's Competition and Markets Authority after it announced an investigation into the Mobile Apps Ecosystem. We explained that it shouldn't be seen as a binary choice between single-platform "native" apps on iOS and Android, but should also be concerned with Progressive Web Apps and, by extension, also look at how Apple hamstrings PWAs by only allowing its WebKit on iOS and iPad.

The CMA agreed, and last week announced a new a market investigation into cloud gaming and mobile browsers after receiving widespread support for its proposals first published in June:

Web developers have complained that Apple’s restrictions, combined with suggested underinvestment in its browser technology, lead to added costs and frustration as they have to deal with bugs and glitches when building web pages, and have no choice but to create bespoke mobile apps when a website might be sufficient.

Ultimately, these restrictions limit choice and may make it more difficult to bring innovative new apps to the hands of UK consumers. At the same time, Apple and Google have argued that restrictions are needed to protect users. The CMA’s market investigation will consider these concerns and consider whether new rules are needed to drive better outcomes.

The CMA Board Advisory Steer gives a good insight into the things they will investigate.

We want to say a huge thank you to all web developers who took the time and trouble to reply to CMA's consultations. Big Tech firms have whole departments who leap into action if regulators start sniffing, and the money to set up pseudo-associations to lobby on their behalf. We didn't; you had our backs. Thank you.