Apple appears to be breaking iPhone web apps in the EU

UPADATE: Confirmed

As I discussed on my Breaking Change podcast a couple weeks ago, Apple it's downright impressive how well Apple is executing on a strategy of malicious compliance in response to the EU's Digital Markets Act.

One tidbit from a week ago was that third-party browser rendering engines wouldn't be able to be saved to the home screen and launched as progressive web apps (PWAs). Well, in order to level the playing field, Apple's apparently decided to just disable PWAs entirely for EU customers:

Apple appears to be turning off the ability to use web apps right from the iPhone’s homescreen in the European Union. Support for progressive web apps appeared to be broken inside in the EU during the first two betas of iOS 17.4, but today developer Maximiliano Firtman said in a post on X that web apps are still turned off in the third beta, which arrived yesterday. “At this point, it’s a feature disabled on purpose,” Firtman wrote.

If you haven't heard Firtman's name before, he's been the guy following Apple's largely-undocumented, unnecessarily circuitous path to progressive web app support in iOS, so if that's his read, that's probably the case.

I know a lot of people are angry at Apple's flagrant display of spite as they take their ball and go home on all these issues, but I really can't manage any other reaction but to be impressed by their commitment to the bit. After the DMA passed but before Apple released their response, there was expectation that similar laws would pass in other developed countries over the next 18-24 months. But Apple's ability to outpace this months-old legislation so completely is probably throwing cold water on those plans, if they exist. The EU could choose to deny Apple's proposals, but something tells me that substantive changes would require even more complex legislative changes which would only invite even more sophisticated technical and policy countermeasures by Apple.

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