In a landmark move driven by compliance with the EU's Digital Markets Act, iOS 17.4 is set to revolutionize the browsing experience for European iPhone users. Apple's paradigm shift entails a crucial product alteration—alternative browser engines will be permitted on iOS, marking the end of the long-standing WebKit monopoly.
Since the inception of the App Store, various browsers have coexisted, all powered by the WebKit engine. However, with iOS 17.4, developers now have the unprecedented liberty to employ non-WebKit engines, breathing new life into the functionality of browsers. Apple emphasizes that developers must be authorized, meeting specific criteria and committing to privacy and security measures before they can transition away from WebKit.
Notably, the change extends beyond the engine itself. iOS 17.4 introduces a choice screen to Safari, allowing users to select a different default browser upon launching the app for the first time. This empowers users with greater flexibility in customizing their browsing experience.
Apple's decision is not without its complexities and frustrations, evident in their release statement. The company acknowledges that these alterations are a direct result of the Digital Markets Act's requirements. Apple expresses discontent, noting that EU users will now face a list of default browsers, interrupting their initial Safari experience—a stark departure from Apple's usual emphasis on a seamless user journey.
While Apple contends that the move is EU-specific, ensuring users in the region can switch browsers without hindrance, it remains steadfast in asserting the superiority of WebKit's security and performance. However, these claims may soon be put to the test, as major players like Google gear up to introduce non-WebKit versions of their browsers to the App Store.
With iOS 17.4 set to debut in March, European users are poised for a browser war, challenging the established WebKit dominance and introducing a new era of choice and competition on their iPhones.