Since Apple released their plans for compliance with the EU’s DMA regulations on 25th January, we’ve been asking web developers how these changes may affect how they work, their businesses and the web as a whole.
Jake Archibald, senior developer for Shopify, reflected "It seemed unbelievable to me that users on iOS were restricted to one browser engine, and one that in the past has been slow to fix serious bugs, and lagged behind on features. Apple has been forced to lift this restriction, but how they react to this will show us their attitude to the web"
Begin co-founder Brian LeRoux said “Lots of us are trying to make sense of the recent EU regulatory rulings and Apples' bad faith letter to the law implementation. To me, it's an excellent demonstration of why browser choice is crucially important as standards participation and legal compliance are clearly not incentive enough.”, continuing his thoughts in a public thread.
Many spoke to us about concerns that Apple is ring-fencing access to new browsers, especially with regards to testing.
Jason Grigsby, Co-founder of Cloud Four, asked “What happens if someone in the EU runs into a bug that isn’t happening in other browsers? How do we troubleshoot it? I’m trying to think of a comparable time when we had no way to test in a browser. The closest I can come to is the earliest days of mobile when the Android browser was different on each carrier. But even then, I could go to a carrier store to test and/or buy a phone if I needed more time with it. What do I do now?”
He continued with some thoughts on how he may solve this, “For us, maybe BrowserStack or a similar service will give us a way to see what our European users are seeing? Absent that, I think we're stuck.”
Peter-Paul Koch, a long time web standards and browser compatibility expert, echoed these worries, asking, “Will there be a way around this problem? For instance a VPN, or non-EU web devs becoming 'members' of an EU entity that gives them an EU Apple account and thus access to the new browsers?” and although an EU citizen himself, he showed concern for developers in other locales and wondered if this opened opportunities for legal challenges in other countries, “This puts non-EU web devs at a clear competitive disadvantage. Would that be an argument that regulatory authorities are willing to listen to? US web devs are put at a disadvantage by Apple, so Apple has to solve the situation - by also giving them access to the other browsers?”
Scott Jenson, UX strategist, opened on a positive note but quickly turned to scepticism, “Excellent start however but rather shocking that the needs of the EU are totally different from the rest of the world.” and continued with a now familiar concern, “As a developer this is very frustrating as how are we even to test our web pages now between regions?”
Moving on from topics of testing, developers reflected on a future with more browser choice for consumers on iOS.
Beginning “I think that only time will tell..” Léonie Watson, Director at TetraLogical and W3C board member, was hesitant “iOS only has one screen reader. VoiceOver works well with Safari and reasonably well with Firefox and Chrome, but whether that will continue when those browsers use their own engines is unknown at this stage.” Watson also has fears for diversity, “I also think there is a chance that Chrome could become the dominant browser across the board, and if it should, that we'll have a near unshakable monoculture.”
Andy Davies, consultant for SpeedCurve, noted that the changes in the EU do open up some opportunities to really get to know Safari better in relation to its competitors, “Probably the most interesting thing for me is we’ll finally be able to do like for like comparisons of web performance in the wild and we’ll be able to compare the speed of sites in Chrome on Android vs Chrome on iOS and so begin to get a real world understanding of the gap between the performance of Android and iOS devices”
Others see more hope in an increase in the competitive landscape. David Darnes, a lead at NordHealth, told us “I guess as a web developer I should see this as a win for the browser landscape. With these changes other browser engines will be able to run on iOS, which in turn creates healthier competition.”
Zach Leatherman, creator of 11ty and CloudCannon developer, had a similar opinion, “I’m nervous to applaud the changes outright as it seems to introduce additional variability but I am quite happy to celebrate a future of more choices for developers and consumers.”
Both had concerns, however, "That being said from what I’ve seen the amount of red tape to cut and hoops to jump through, one of which being just living in the EU, makes me worried that that silver lining will be lost in it all.”, said Darnes. Leatherman noted, “There has always been some unnerving variability in how iOS has handled in-app web browsers, so much so that I have recommended folks never use an in-app browser spawned from a native app lest they compromise the well established privacy norms usually afforded to them by the web browser.“
Dave Rupert, of ShopTalk fame and co-founder of Luro, gave us a position of hopeful curiosity, “It will be interesting to see what happens from here. Will we break out of the Chromium/Webkit duopoly? Or will we fall headlong into a Chromium monopoly? Regardless, the EU ruling is a win for the Open Web because now more users have choice beyond the OS-provided default browser.” He expanded these thoughts on his blog.
Ultimately Zach Leatherman sums up the concerns for most, “It would be quite disappointing if—when the rubber meets the road—browser variability were dependent on the country in which you reside! I thought web browsers were supposed to be for the world wide web?”
How will these changes affect how you work? Let us know at our social media locations: