More web browser variety may be coming to iOS, leak suggests

Safari Tab Groups screenshot
(Image credit: Future)

The EU is preparing to introduce new rules that could limit the rules imposed by Apple on alternative web browsers for iOS, a new leak suggests.

Although the European Union took the wraps off the Digital Services Act - the latest attempt to regulate the provision of online services - earlier this month, the final text of the bill has not yet been made public.

However, based on an early leaked draft seen by MacRumors and The Register, EU regulators have Apple in their crosshairs, in addition to players like Google and Meta.

Specifically, the EU plans to force Apple into allowing third-parties to bypass WebKit, the default engine for all browsers on the iOS platform.

"Article 5 point (e) has been expanded to capture instances where the gatekeeper requires business users to offer or interoperate with a web browser engine," wrote lawyer Damien Geradin in a blog post

"This is most likely meant to address Apple’s policy of requiring all browsers running on iOS to utilize Apple’s WebKit browser engine – a policy which the UK CMA has recently found may have restricted the development of web apps, among others."

No one is safe 

Alongside the Digital Markets Act, the EU plans to enforce some pretty tough laws on digital services and platforms with the DSA, including around content moderation, algorithmic transparency, misinformation, and more. 

While the DMA clearly covers Apple, the DSA is focused on those that provide online services, which isn't something traditionally associated with the company (beyond cloud storage). 

However, the EU's move has the potential to upend how browsers work on iOS, according to web legend Alex Russell, who has worked on Chrome and Edge.

"The potential for a capable web has been all but extinguished on mobile because Apple has successfully prevented it until now," Russell told The Register. "Businesses and services will be able to avoid building 'apps' entirely when enough users have capable browsers."

Whether the proposals succeed – you can imagine how intensely Apple will fight these rules, given its long-term opposition to any changes to its App Store fees – remains to be seen. 

But it's certainly interesting that the EU is casting its net wide enough to impact the technology monolith and weaken its position in another area of iOS.

Max Slater-Robins has been writing about technology for nearly a decade at various outlets, covering the rise of the technology giants, trends in enterprise and SaaS companies, and much more besides. Originally from Suffolk, he currently lives in London and likes a good night out and walks in the countryside.