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11 Feb, 2023
2 min time to read

The likelihood of new iPhone browsers that don't rely on WebKit has increased with this move.

Apple has expressed its objections to the proposed remedies of the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in its investigation into the company's "substantial and entrenched market power" in the mobile sector. The iPhone maker claimed that these remedies would turn it into a "clone of Android".

The main reason for Apple's frustration is the CMA's plan to eliminate the WebKit requirement on iOS, which is seen as anti-competitive. Currently, if a user wants to access a browser like Chrome or Firefox on an iPhone, they must use the WebKit engine used by Safari.

The CMA's probe into the mobile browser and cloud gaming platforms is part of a larger investigation, and the controversial remedies are outlined in a December 2022 issues statement.

According to the CMA's market study, the statement explained that "evidence" showed the quality of all browsers on Apple devices is restricted due to the slower development pace of WebKit. The study also revealed that web developers have had to cancel features because of a lack of support from WebKit and that businesses face higher costs as they must rely on native apps instead of web apps, and deal with the bugs and glitches inherent in WebKit.

In its response published recently, Apple countered the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA) demand to remove the WebKit requirement by saying it would stop uniform updates of apps that render web content, as Android does. The tech giant also rejected the suggestion of enabling sideloading and alternative app stores, stating that it would undermine the strong user protections of Apple's curated model. The company went on to say that the CMA's requested changes would turn iOS into another version of Android, thus limiting consumer choice.

The CMA claimed that Apple and Google have a monopoly in the UK's mobile ecosystem. Apple expressed concern over the remedy options being considered by the CMA regarding cloud gaming, which it believed fall outside the scope of the market investigation.

Apple has taken a strong stance against the CMA's investigation and has appealed to the Competition Appeal Tribunal, arguing that the CMA has overstepped its authority and seeking a stay of the probe.

Google, on the other hand, filed a response on January 25, denying the CMA's findings that Android uses default settings to create market barriers. The company stated that Chrome's popularity on Android is a result of users' freedom to choose their preferred browser, and cited figures that over 80 percent of UK Android users are confident in changing their smartphone settings. Google added that browser engine tweaks would not apply to its mobile operating system as developers can use any browser engine they want on Android.

As previously reported by The Register, Google Chrome is based on Blink (through its open-source Chromium foundation), which was forked from WebKit nearly 10 years ago. Firefox, on the other hand, uses Gecko, while Microsoft Edge uses Chromium code (Blink).

The European Commission has imposed a fine of €4.34 billion ($4.67 billion) on Google for its Android operating system. Additionally, the upcoming European Digital Markets Act (DMA) is already in effect and will identify the "gatekeepers" in September (it is highly likely that Apple will be one). This act gives large tech companies until March 2024 to comply with its regulations. The DMA is predicted to require Apple to allow alternative app stores and potentially modify the WebKit requirement, making iMessages platform compatible. Both Apple and Google will be required to permit third-party payment options within apps on their respective app stores and reduce the commission they collect from developers' revenues.