Apple confirms that iOS 17.4 removes web apps from the home screen in the EU, and here's why

iOS 17.4 brings a number of changes to the App Store and iPhone in the EU. This includes things like third-party app marketplaces and support for alternative browser engines. However, a byproduct of these changes is that iOS 17.4 removes support for web apps on the EU home screen.

Apple has now provided an explanation for this decision, confirming that this omission was not an error. Instead, this is due to the requirements set out in the Digital Markets Act.

Web Apps on iOS 17.4 in the EU

Last week, iPhone users in the European Union noticed that they were no longer able to install and launch web apps on their iPhone's home screen in iOS 17.4. Apple has added a number of features over the years to improve support for Progressive Web Apps on iPhone. For example, iOS 16.4 allowed PWAs to deliver push notifications with icon badges.

One of the changes in iOS 17.4 is that the iPhone now supports alternative browser engines in the EU. This allows companies to create browsers that don't use Apple's WebKit engine for the first time. Apple says this change, required by the Digital Markets Act, is why it had to remove support for web apps on the EU home screen.

Apple explains that it will have to create “an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS” to address “complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps that use alternative browser engines.”

Apple explains that this work “was not practical given the other requirements of DMA and the very low user adoption of web apps on the home screen.” “Thus, to comply with DMA requirements, we had to remove the EU Home Screen Web Apps feature.”

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“EU users will be able to continue to access websites directly from their home screen through a bookmark with minimal impact on their functionality,” Apple continues.

It is understood that Apple will not offer support for web apps on the home screen of third-party browsers. But why was support for web apps on the Safari home screen also removed? Unfortunately, this is another side effect of the Digital Markets Act.

DMA requires all browsers to be equal, which means Apple can't favor Safari and WebKit over third-party browser engines. Therefore, since it cannot provide support for web apps on the home screen of third-party browsers, it also cannot provide support via Safari.

Here's Apple's full explanation, which was posted on Apple Developer Today website:

To comply with the Digital Markets Act, Apple has done a tremendous amount of engineering work to add new functionality and capabilities for developers and users in the EU – including more than 600 new access points and a wide range of developer tools.

iOS has traditionally provided support for web apps on the home screen by building directly on top of WebKit and its security architecture. This integration means that web apps on the home screen are managed to align with the security and privacy model of native apps on iOS, including storage isolation and enforcing system prompts for access to privacy-impacting capabilities on a per-site basis.

Without this type of isolation and enforcement, malicious web applications can read data from other web applications and reclaim their permissions to access a user's camera, microphone, or location without the user's consent. Browsers can also install web applications on the system without the user's knowledge and consent. Addressing the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web applications using alternative browser engines would require creating an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to implement given the other requirements of DMA and the extremely low user adoption of web applications on the home screen. Therefore, to comply with DMA requirements, we had to remove the EU Home Screen Web Apps feature.

EU users will be able to continue accessing websites directly from their home screen through a bookmark with minimal impact on their functionality. We expect this change to affect a small number of users. However, we regret any impact this change – made as part of the work to comply with the DMA – may have on developers of home screen web applications and

iOS 17.4 is currently available to developers and public beta testers, and is scheduled for release in early March.

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