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EU Probes Apple's Decision to Axe iPhone Web Apps

In a move that has drawn the attention of European regulators, Apple's recent announcement to phase out web apps on the iPhone has sparked concerns within the European Union. The tech giant's decision, set to take effect with the rollout of iOS 17.4, discontinues the support for progressive web apps, relegating them to mere bookmarks rather than fully functional standalone applications. This shift has prompted the European Commission to initiate an inquiry, seeking detailed explanations from Apple and feedback from app developers affected by the change.

Regulatory Scrutiny Amidst Digital Market Reforms

The European Commission's investigation into Apple's policy adjustment comes as part of a broader assessment of the compliance of "gatekeepers" with the Digital Markets Act (DMA). This landmark legislation aims to ensure fair competition and innovation within the digital market, with specific provisions targeting the interoperability of software and services. A spokesperson for the European Commission has confirmed the ongoing collection of information, highlighting a particular focus on the implications for progressive web apps. The move underscores the EU's commitment to maintaining a balanced digital ecosystem, where consumer choice and security are paramount.

Apple's Rationale and Developer Backlash

Apple's justification for this significant pivot hinges on the DMA's mandate for third-party browser engine support, a requirement that Apple claims necessitates a complete overhaul of its integration architecture—a task it deems impractical amidst the DMA's other requirements. Citing reasons ranging from low user engagement with web apps to potential security vulnerabilities, Apple appears to be steering its ecosystem towards a more closed model. However, this explanation has not sat well with the developer community. Advocacy groups like Open Web Advocacy are spearheading efforts to gather developer feedback on the impact of this decision, aiming to influence the European Commission's assessment.

Looking Ahead: Implications and Expectations

As the European Commission delves into the intricacies of Apple's decision, the tech industry and regulatory bodies watch closely. The outcome of this inquiry could set a precedent for how digital market regulations are implemented and enforced, potentially reshaping the landscape of app development and platform interoperability in the EU. With developers rallying for a reversal of the decision and Apple standing by its rationale, the debate over the future of web apps on iOS devices is far from over. The situation underscores the complex interplay between innovation, regulation, and market dynamics in the digital age, with significant implications for stakeholders across the spectrum.

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