back to article Safari is crippling the mobile market, and we never even noticed

It has been 14 years since Apple opened its App Store with its shiny shopfront of tempting toys and gloomy back office of rules and rentier revenues, but only now has the proposed EU Digital Markets Act threatened to end Apple's web browser engine monopoly.  And even then, it's only by 2024, when the App Store will celebrate …

  1. GruntyMcPugh Silver badge

    Ker-Ching!

    Seems like a financial decision, why allow a web browser to do everything, when you can break the web up into little app sized pieces and get 30% back on each chunk?

    Breaking the web for parts is good business. It's not great for consumers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ker-Ching!

      Don't forget that when Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone Apple got a lot of flak for not supporting native apps (as were common on Symbian phones because their browsers, and HTML4, were shit) on iOS and instead trying to get the world to move to HTML5 web apps (which were an emerging thing at the time). That was also one of the reasons why Flash, even if it could be made to work relatively well on a phone if Adobe had pulled its finger out, was not welcome on iOS. It all had to be HTML5.

      18 months later Apple gave in and launched the App Store which allowed development in Objective-C too.

      The App Store turned out to be great for business but I'm not convinced that was always the plan. Knowing Apple they would have been much better prepared if that was the intention all along.

      1. Ace2 Bronze badge

        Re: Ker-Ching!

        IMO you have it backwards. The API/SDK wasn’t ready, so the web apps thing was a cover story until they could get it ready to release. They couldn’t have kept the lid on the product line for two more years just waiting.

      2. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: Ker-Ching!

        The main reason that Jobs banned Flash was, I distinctly recall, because the code was a resource hog that flattened an iPad's battery.

        In the article it says "Apple won't let you use anything else. There is no good reason for this."

        I can think of one good reason: if an alternate browser has free rein to interact with the device (in the same way that Flash did) its browser engine could behave in a similarly bad way. I'm not saying it would; I'm saying that it could. For that very reason alone, I imagine that if Apple are forced to accept this, they would only do so with the user's explicit permission to absolve them of performance responsibility. There's a monetary cost to bodgers turning up at an Apple Store for help. Also, Apple won't want people waving a phone around in a pub saying that its performance is crap, dissing their products.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Gimp

          Re: Ker-Ching!

          On my MacBook, Chrome is a battery eater, Safari isn’t. Chromium isn’t so bad. It doesn’t have the Google Services which may be a good or bad thing depending on your point of view.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: Ker-Ching!

            Apple insists on keeping certain APIs, including hardware acceleration, private and usable only by their software.

        2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Ker-Ching!

          Have you ever heard of choice?

          Not that I like Flash, but If Apple had allowed it, Flash could have used hardware acceleration. It was banned to stop Adobe building its own content and app store.

          The same is true for browsers: Apple prevents other developers from using hardware acceleration for graphics and JS engines.

  2. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    One reason that web browsing on any phoned is such an awful experience because of the cookie warnings. They get in the way, they don't always work, partially obliterating the website and they have not any any practical purpose. Perhaps if regulators could fixate on things like that - face it, the idea failed - then things would start to get better.

    Oh, and yes, allowing different browser engines on apple phones is probably a good idea. However, in my experience of using Safari and Chrome more or less equally, I cannot find any observable difference.

    1. scrubber

      New Browser, New Rules

      Maybe a different browser would allow you to set global cookie rules that websites would accept with no user interaction?

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: New Browser, New Rules

        Maybe a title bar toggle which says "this page contains something I might want a cookie for" which you could turn on for either shopping or login pages...

        Then it could offer you the cookies (listed order to be determined by the browser) so you can accept the relevant one (or two).

        Or we could absolutely ban any non login/shopping cart etc based cookies.

        If it's essential to making the site display correctly (not to track people across it) then it's OK. "This site is designed so that we need cookies" does not count as essential.

      2. Ace2 Bronze badge

        Re: New Browser, New Rules

        Is that not something that a new browser app should be able to control? Apple forces you to use their engine to render pages, but cookie settings seem like they would be at the layer above that.

        1. katrinab Silver badge
          Flame

          Re: New Browser, New Rules

          All browsers have a Do Not Track header for that. Everyone ignores it.

      3. ThatOne Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: New Browser, New Rules

        > allow you to set global cookie rules that websites would accept with no user interaction

        Come on! That's precisely what websites try to avoid: They harass and pester the users as much as possible so they either start claiming they don't want to be asked about consent ("Spy on me, please!"), or at least so they start quickly clicking through the nag screens picking the most easy solution ("Accept all") instead of trying to go through the cumbersome and well-hidden "Maybe not all" option... Basic marketing.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: New Browser, New Rules oh, but…

        That would take the mother of all API’s or a whole population of targeted ones - better? Who knows. But it’d be the full employment act.

    2. devin3782 Silver badge

      Add to that the Angular/React JS frameworks needlessly chewing through cpu cycles.

      There is no difference between Safari and Chrome on iOS, apple insists that your browser uses webkit so Chrome, Firefox etc... have to use webkit to render pages. I wonder why they've not been hit with an anti-trust over that one?

  3. the hawk

    Meh

    Almost every other browser is based on Google’s Blink. No way extending that near-monopoly ends well.

    1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      Firefox.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: Meh

        Firefox might not be based on Google's engine, but they are definitely based on Google's money.

        So their main occupation is shooting themselves in the feet, removing options and dumbing Firefox down to make it less appealing to power users. Because of course their main customers are the clueless masses who click on whatever is on their desktop and who think Google = Internet... *facepalm*

        My point? Yes, technically you're right, and I'm using Firefox right now, but Firefox is definitely on the way out: Once Google doesn't need them as a anti-monopoly shield anymore, they will join Netscape in the "Was in the way of somebody rich and powerful" club. Sad. Firefox was a marvelous browser, infinitely configurable, a pleasure to use. Key word "was"...

        1. Mac Logo

          Re: Meh

          I've lost count of the number of times Firefox has been a marvelous browser, added pointless cruft until it's rendered unusable and then been stripped down again.

        2. cyberdemon Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Meh

          Actually, on mobile, it IS based on Google's engine.

          Everything (including Firefox) is forced through Google's WebView API, which is responsible for rendering a DOM, and this blocks things like Text Reflow.

          Thus, if you want to zoom in on the text of a webpage, on mobile you have no choice but to pan left and right.

          I'm sure that Google Analytics provides a handy breakdown of the bits of the webpage that you zoom and pan over though.

          1. rejhgadellaa

            Re: Meh

            Firefox on Android uses Firefox's own Gecko engine:

            "As with its desktop version, it uses the Gecko layout engine"

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firefox_for_Android

            On iOS, FF is forced to use the WebKit build that comes preinstalled with the OS (as does every other browser on iOS with the notable exception of Safari, which gets its own special build of WebKit).

            1. cyberdemon Silver badge
              Devil

              Re: Meh

              Interesting, I always blamed WebKit for the lack of Text Reflow on Android.

              If they use the same renderer as on desktop, then WTF is the excuse for lack of text reflow on Android? There used to be an extension that sort-of provided it (but it could only handle one page of text at a time, so no scrolling) and since the Fenix update, it is no longer available.

              Maybe it is so that they can enforce a "Consistent mobile experience" with iOS, where they -ARE- forced through WebKit ?

              If so, then how can I compile my own version of the Firefox APK that supports Text Reflow?

              (What do you mean "You can't, it's not That kind of Open Source")

              (I really lament the dearth (or death?) of open source apps on Android)

        3. BOFH in Training Bronze badge

          Re: Meh

          Yeah I rather have firefox for the more technically inclined while the great unwashed mass can stick to a prettied up chrome if they wish.

          That way firefox will always have a niche, at the very least.

          Typing this on my firefox browser with about 40 tabs open currently.

          1. ThatOne Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: Meh

            > I rather have firefox for the more technically inclined while the great unwashed mass can stick to a prettied up chrome

            Indeed, that's Firefox's customer base, and that's why Mozilla is constantly dumbing Firefox down and removing features. Yes, they say they can't leave things lying around idiots users could cut themselves with, but it's way more simple. Once the "technically inclined" have had enough, there will only remain a handful of older retired people their kids had provided with Firefox, and then that's that: Curtain! Chrome rules the world.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Meh

      I fail to see why that is a reason for inaction against Apple.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Meh

      I wonder why thie author didn't pick up on this point?

    4. v13

      Re: Meh

      It's opensource though. And it doesn't impose restrictions to anyone that wants to use it. The fact that there are so many diverse browsers based on Chromium is a testament to that. And it's also the most advanced engine it there.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge
    Windows

    mobile screens too small?

    I don't carry a huge mobile phone. And on my iPhone SE the screen is too small for a browser, its tool bars, address bars etc... I get the angle of Apple ruling the roost, stifling innovation, but I still think dedicated apps work better on small screens.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: mobile screens too small?

      Meh.

      Even then I'm unconvinced unlocking the iOS browser engine will generate the wild surge of innovation they suppose.

      Its very Western, Capitalist thinking that change for change's sake is good.

      Maybe a dull steady state with lots of known - and therefore avoidable - bugs is better than rampant "innovation" and "creative destruction"?

      I know I've come to dread every Chrome for Desktop update. Something annoying generally occurs 1 patch outta 3.

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: mobile screens too small?

      > I still think dedicated apps work better on small screens

      You're clearly not a web app developer (those who downvoted you)...

      Remember, to a guy with a hammer...

      I personally am pragmatic: Some apps are definitely just copying the functionality of an existing website and I definitely don't see why I would need to encumber my phone's limited memory with them; Others however are definitely doing things which don't (shouldn't) really need a network connection, and are much more efficient as a stand-alone native program running locally. Shoehorning everything in the browser "because we can" is IMHO dumb. Sorry guys, I know you're defending your livelihood, but please have the intellectual honesty to admit not everything is a nail.

      1. G Mac
        Facepalm

        Re: mobile screens too small?

        The problem with this is that with iOS everything falls through to WebKit and Safari. In some cases you cannot even use Chrome/whatever because it doesn't have the right access to the device to be able to operate. Case in point is WebRTC (yup needs a network - check) - you can only use Safari on iOS because the other browsers don't get enough access to iOS.

        Another case in point: PWAs work 'fairly' (not perfect but not terrible) well on Android and desktops, but they have limitations on iOS which makes them behave differently. Again, don't bother with other browsers on iOS because it is Safari/WebKit that is the gate (which makes the author's point re monetization).

        We are a small company (2 devs) with a web based platform. The effort expended to make what is in essence a web based application work as a native app in iOS (and Android, tho PWAs work better there) is debilitating. We could have offline access for some stuff, but keeping information up to date for folks is what we do and being online is the way that works. Having a native app for the minuscule time the user is offline is pretty think gruel.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: mobile screens too small?

        A prime example of this is all the Electron bloatware we keep getting. Teams is a very bad offender, it regularly grinds my Core i5 ThinkPad to a halt, I have to close other applications, as it quickly gobbles up the complete 8GB of RAM. The fans kick in and the whole thing is loud.

        Or VisualStudio Code, another offender. It is a great product and I really like it, but it is slow and bloated. I also use Notepad++ which offers very similar functionality, for what I require, and it uses just a few MB of space, not hundreds of MB or even GB.OK, just wanted to test, so opened VSC, it took 500MB and 98% CPU for nearly a minute (1 file with 3 lines of text in it open). Notepad++, on the other hand, with the same file open, opens instantly, doesn't grab all the CPU and uses a frugal 7.6MB RAM.

        Yes, VS Code is more complex, but it doesn't have nearly 100 times the features of Notepad++. We have ever more RAM and processor speed, so few people care about actually writing efficient code.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: mobile screens too small?

          Argh! Don't get me started on bloody Teams.

          I logged on as Admin to install Teams. Then logged on as me. And I couldn't run Teams. BECAUSE IT INSTALLS ITSELF IN THE USER AREA! WHAT THE BLOODY ****????

          Get. In. The Damn. Program. Area. Where. You. Bloody. Belong. So. All. Users. Can. Run. You. Dammit.

          1. 43300

            Re: mobile screens too small?

            Yes, it does - so on a hotdesk computer you can end up with loads of separate installs in every user profile. Really smart piece of design...

            It's clearly designed to work around the requirement for local admin rights. Chrome does the same, as do various other pieces of software.

            If you have a volume license and install Office using a script in includes an installer program which automatically installs Teams for each user the first time they log in.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: mobile screens too small?

              Yes, we have black listed the Teams installer in our AV software for all users who do not have Teams (we add them to an extra AD group, when they get a Teams account).

        2. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

          Re: mobile screens too small?

          Maybe this isn't Electron/Teams as much as it is Windows.

          I am running Teams on Linux currently and currently (idle) using 0 CPU and 808MB of memory. Even in video conference It does not hurt my CPU performance.

          I know when I used to run Windows Teams would kill my performance.

          VS Code on Linux is the same performance.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: mobile screens too small?

            Yes, but 800MB? That is about 700MB more than it needs...

        3. ThatOne Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: mobile screens too small?

          > so few people care about actually writing efficient code

          They'd sell it the same price, so why bother?

          The quaint notion of being proud of one's handiwork is so terribly outdated, nowadays it's all about optimizing the effort/reward ratio.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Taking the Pith

    "It ain't half hot Mum!"

  6. peter_dtm

    Lousy web design

    Mostly specious arguments as the main issue with the web browser experience is caused by abysmally bad design of the web pages.

    Get the so called web designers educated in making decent web pages first, then it may be worth attacking the underlying engines.

    Don’t forget a lot of Apple users buy into Apple BECAUSE of the walled garden. The small vocal minority that don’t should just buy some other ‘phone manufacturer’s output

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
      Stop

      Re: Lousy web design

      When the browser doesn't follow the rules, it's not the web developer's fault. Apple have repeatedly introduced Safari-specific features with new versions of IOS and expected developers to use them rather than discuss the features with other makers.

    2. Tessier-Ashpool

      Re: Lousy web design

      Indeed. I've seen users complain that Safari doesn't work at all well with certain websites. Very often such websites are very poorly written, as you can easily determine by running a URL through an online HTML validation tool such as https://validator.w3.org/

      It seems that Chrome is more forgiving (if that's actually the right word) of rubbish developers who don't know how to construct HTML properly.

      1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

        Re: Lousy web design

        Yeah, it's the attitude "I put kitchen grease in my car, now my car doesn't run properly, bloody stupid car!"

      2. MonkeyJuice

        Re: Lousy web design

        Strongly disagree on this one. I work on high performance web tech, using things like WebGL, and other shiny, but mostly unfscking webdev drones jank filled horror.

        Cross browser platform support is _required_, not something I tack on to a project as the bug reports come in. When something breaks, 90% of the time it's in Safari, and it's usually because Apple introduced that technology in a hurry to slap a supports X bullet point on their product and half arsed the implementation. For example, it is 2022, and measuring SVG tspan elements (from the 2007 svg spec, no less) returns utterly useless results.

        This, coupled with the fact that Safari basically fills the screen with 'magical' touch areas that will, no matter what, nerf your user interaction, making a reasonable app-like experience in that browser is damn near impossible. Their PWA support has slightly improved this, and just this year, they finally released WebGL2, which is a good thing because WebGL on iOS safari is so nerfed it reports hardware capabilities half that of a trash android phone from 2014 on an iPhone X. I spoke to an apple engineer about that and they muttered something about management and 'battery' life. WebGL2 was ready _8 years ago_, but the suits sat on the release.

        I'll be the first to say, the web platform is batshit insane, and not at all my first choice for anything, but from the coal face, Apple have actively subverted it, by either dragging out implementing standards over decades, or just screwing up implementations and never fixing them. And yes, this is exactly how IE was.

        1. Chris--S

          Re: Lousy web design

          Agree. Safari is the new IE, both most buggy and slowest with new features. Not necessarily shiny ones, e.g. last with webp support.

  7. bolac

    Web Devs are the enemy of the user

    It is not a curse, it is a blessing that Apple is not support all the shit that web devs come up with. I am not using any Apple device, I am using 100% open source for more than 20 years. But I am really grateful that Apple killed Third Party Cookies and refuses to support unnecessary standards that give websites access to anything.

  8. karlkarl Silver badge

    "Safari is crippling the mobile market, and we never even noticed"

    What?! Of course we all bloody noticed that haha.

    The problem is that there is nothing us plebs can do except refusing to purchase the defective pieces of junk.

  9. Ace2 Bronze badge

    Crap article

    This article is more than three things, but most of it is just nonsense. Microsoft had 95% of the personal computer market when they were trying to push IE on everyone. Apple has something like 40% of the smartphone market, right?

    I bought in because I WANT there to be one tightly-controlled browser engine. Hell yes I want Apple devs on the standards mailing lists fighting back against Google’s stupid API ideas.

    People who are upset about this issue should just buy a damn android. What’s that you say, they’re not as nice? Tough ttys.

    1. Richard Jones 1
      WTF?

      Re: Crap article

      I have never had an Apple device, unless you count the one I had for a while from my employer. That convinced me I never wanted to buy such a slow, overpriced counter-intuitive device. Having never used one since and having only ever used a mix of Nokia and Android, I have never felt the need to stray. I find the mobile web a total waste of time. Screens filled with advertising dross, terrible presentation, lack of useful information and so on. Every addition to my mobile's capability has been supplied or free, so no one fleeces me from oh so useless 'apps', or should that be craps.

    2. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Crap article

      Safari has 100% of the iOS and around 95% of the macOS browser market.

      That's very significant monopoly power.

      Apple were until very recently the most valuable corporation on the planet. They still are the most valuable tech company.

      You don't have to be a literal monopoly to abuse your market position, and as consumers we should expect and require our elected representatives to act before the abuse has actually killed the competition. Because that would be far too late.

      1. Ace2 Bronze badge

        Re: Crap article

        Nonsense. Toyota has 100% of the Toyota manufacturing market; is that a monopoly that needs to be addressed?

        You can’t watch Netflix shows except on Netflix.

        AMC’s subscription plan is only good at AMC theaters.

        Only NBA teams get to play in NBA games.

        Etc etc

        1. arachnoid2

          Nonsense. Toyota has 100% of the Toyota manufacturing market

          But other 3rd party manufacturers are able to make all sorts of working parts for it provided they dont impinge on copyright territory. They can make anything from brake pads to performance enhancing software.

          Netflix is just a market place and whilst they make their own content the majority of it is licensed by them from others not having the providers charged for airing the media or taking a large percentage of their income is a great difference in its own..

        2. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: Crap article

          Wrong. Having bought a Toyota:

          I can buy tyres, oil and other consumables from anywhere.

          I can buy spare parts from multiple third parties - the only requirement is that they don't claim to be made by Toyota. Which is fine.

          I can take my Toyota to any garage I like to get it maintained or fixed, or even do it myself if I want to.

          The above is not true for John Deere tractors, though...

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: Crap article

            What if you wanted to buy an alternative ECU for your Toyota and also wanted to keep your five year warranty?

            Or indeed, if you wanted to fit a different engine, or bolt a turbo onto your existing engine within your five year warranty period? Of course you could do it with a bit of hacking.

            1. 43300

              Re: Crap article

              Not the same thing is it? Nothing to stop you doing it, but it might invalidate the warranty. If you are happy to do that, or the warranty has already expired, then go right ahead.This is the same with many manufactured devices - including many computers.

          2. Franco Silver badge

            Re: Crap article

            I've had this argument on these pages before, the Macolytes don't accept the fact that Apple has 100% control over the devices and how software gets on to them, even in app transactions go through Apple (Just ask Epic Games)

            As always to those who drunk the koolaid, control is good so long as it comes from Apple. If it's Google or Microsoft or whoever else then it's terrible and Steve Jobs wouldn't have stood for it.

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Crap article

              I accept the fact. Apart from where they allow people to do their own deployment of course, but you have to buy that right.

              Anyway, yes... I argue the point not because I don't believe it but because nobody has convinced me yet that this is a bad thing. Or at least a worse thing than the other thing.

              1. Franco Silver badge

                Re: Crap article

                As far as I am concerned choice is a good thing. There is also a worrying trend in the industry that as long as one vendor "gets away with it" then the others will follow, for example the trend towards portless phones and vendor lock-in on peripherals.

                No doubt security is good and some of what Apple do in keeping their appstore tidy is a good thing, but (IMO) the browser engine lock-in is a deliberate hamstringing of browsing on iOS to drive people to the appstore where the profits are.

        3. JamesTGrant

          Re: Crap article

          And only Earth teams are allowed in the World Cup

          1. Semtex451

            Re: Crap article

            only Earth teams are allowed in Earth's World Cup - ftfy

            We we've been uninvited to anyone elses world cup

            1. TRT Silver badge

              Re: Crap article

              I wanted to play in the moon cup...

              *googles*

              No! No! No! I definitely DON'T want to play in the moon cup. Scratch that idea. Uh uh!

    3. LDS Silver badge

      Re: Crap article

      Still Microsoft never hindered any other browser running on Windows. It just used what would have become the FOSS tactic "you can't compete with free". Netscape died because people didn't want to pay for a browser, and they could not for its development with ads or hardware.

      Chrome succeeded because people didn't have to pay for it.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        Stop

        Re: Crap article

        Microsoft hardwired IE into the OS so that you couldn't remove it and made it the default browser with every update.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Crap article

          But you could ignore it and use your own choice.

      2. v13

        Re: Crap article

        Microsoft was found guilty in court for doing exactly that:

        "Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson issued his findings of fact on November 5, 1999, which stated that Microsoft's dominance of the x86-based personal computer operating systems market constituted a monopoly, and that Microsoft had taken actions to crush threats to that monopoly, including Apple, Java, Netscape, Lotus Software, RealNetworks, Linux, and others"

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Corp.

    4. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: Crap article

      In the end, the courts recognized that MS was right about IE -- and wrong about exerting monopoly control over the inclusion of Windows on new PC's. That was the era when you had to pay extra to get a PC without Windows pre-installed.

      People were, and are, fixated on the 'new shiny', but the actual anti-trust judgement was based on something else.

  10. Len
    Happy

    Webkit development is speeding up again

    Interestingly, Apple seems to have re-prioritised Webkit development recently. Apple have hired Jen Simmons (formerly at Mozilla and also a member of the CSS working group at W3C) to work with developers and she has reached out to the community to report their annoyances, bug reports, suggested improvements etc.

    That was a couple of months ago and since then I've seen a lot of back and forth about various bits where Webkit is/was behind or sloppy. If you are a developer that needs to waste time finding ways around Webkit issues that work well on other major browsers, it helps to make sure she knows about them.

    Apple introduced the concept of the Safari Technology Preview (essentially alfa/beta versions of Safari with code that will eventually make it to normal Safari) a few years ago but lately they have seen a lot more change than usual. Also, the final versions of Safari seem to make bigger strides than they used to.

    I suspect that Apple saw the writing on the wall and at least wanted to remove the accusation that it's deliberately slow with developing Webkit.

  11. andy 103
    Boffin

    Screen size will always be the limiting factor

    So why aren't mobile phones more like wee Chromebooks?

    Erm...The degree icon here is sarcastic. This article - and so many others like it - are pointless and overlook the most obvious problem with mobile web use: the screen size.

    At this point people tout "responsive" sites as the answer to this, and indeed some people have done a better job than others when it comes to making their website render well on small / medium / large viewports. But... there's only so much you can do. The resolution of the screen isn't even the issue. There are Samsung and Apple phones with insane resolution, but none of that overcomes the problem of, well, it's a tiny screen (in the grand scheme of things).

    No browser can overcome this problem so there is very little incentive for the average mobile user to compare browsers. Interestingly this is why I think a lot of iPhone users just use Safari, when the exact same people have installed a non-Safari browser (i.e. Chrome) on their Macbook / iMacs.

    The purpose of websites is to either consume information, or to make some interaction (filling in a form, contacting somebody, buying something, make a booking...). It's not rocket science that doing any of those things is a nicer experience on a big screen where you can see information clearly layed out.

    As an example: why do you think nobody designs or builds mobile apps using a mobile? Why do people still use Desktops to build software? It's certainly not to do with processing power, memory or much else. It's the f-ing screen size, and nobody with any amount of money is ever going to be able to overcome that.

    1. CommonBloke

      Re: Screen size will always be the limiting factor

      Don't forget that on-screen keyboards always take roughly half the screen whenever you have to type anything.

      For coding using a phone, you have the extra problem of having to either deal with autocorrect "correcting" what it shouldn't, such as variable and function names, or with the screen thinking you pressed N instead of M, K instead of L and so on...

    2. vtcodger Silver badge

      Re: Screen size will always be the limiting factor

      "but none of that overcomes the problem of, well, it's a tiny screen (in the grand scheme of things)."

      I don't disagree because I think you are right. And I'd add that my wife's (mostly) elderly friends love smart phones ... except for the tiny print.

      But isn't this exactly the problem that HTML was intended to deal with? "You give us the content with markup to tell us (roughly) what it is, and we'll figure out in the browser how best to present it." Is the difficulty in handling it a failure of HTML (and scripting as well) or of browser design? Could it be solved with different/better markup and/or browser changes and/or some training of Web developers?

      "why do you think nobody designs or builds mobile apps using a mobile?"

      The tiny print doesn't help, but a cheap pair of +6.00 reading glasses could fix that. At least with hi-res screens. I think the problem is more the lack of an input device suitable for easy typing and editing of a lot of text. Phone keyboards may be fine for posting on Twitter. But I think you'd quickly become frustrated trying to type a novel, an article, or a program of any size on a phone "keypad".

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        That input problem

        Every time I travel for more than a day or so, I have this inner debate about whether to carry my laptop or make do with my phone.

        Handling (e.g. replying to) email on a phone (the main reason I don't leave both at home) is torture that the SPCA should have outlawed decades ago (are we not animals?).

        But taking the laptop adds weight, and enlarges the attack surface on anything remotely security related (not no mention replacement cost when stolen).

        But the phone has an almost equal attack surface, given how much we have wedged our lives onto them...

        So I dither.

        But it does occur to me to ask: What person who is old enough to read has fingers small enough to touch-type on a phone "keyboard"? If there are none, why stick with QWERTY or other such "designed for touch typing" layout?

        1. captain veg Silver badge

          Re: That input problem

          Alternatively, why don't we have physical QWERTY keyboards on phones any more?

          The most usable smartphone I ever had was my first, a Treo 270. Its screen was completely rubbish, but the keyboard a wonderful thing.

          Despite the rubbish screen, and even worse connectivity (GPRS or Bluetooth only, no WiFi), it was totally usable on any web site that the tiny bandwidth allowed, albeit with a lot of scrolling.

          I can't type on screen-based touch keyboards due to fat fingers. Voice dictation is the obvious solution for pocket-size devices except for the fact that all the main providers do that by sending a constant stream of audio recording to the mothership, which is often in China. Or the USA.

          And this is why, more often than not, when travelling I simply hook up my Linux laptop to a mobile phone acting as a modem.

          -A.

          1. werdsmith Silver badge

            Re: That input problem

            Alternatively, why don't we have physical QWERTY keyboards on phones any more?

            The market isn't interested. And the manufacturers don't want to be making so many different versions of keyboard layout for whatever territory, when you can just make a soft keyboard. You can seek out a Planet Computers phone if you like. They have just about found enough interest to create three evolutions of it. I use their first one, Gemini because it allows me to ditch Android. Not interested in any of their follow ups.

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: That input problem

              So that just means there's a market niche for after-market add-on proper keyboards, like the ickle keyboard I plug into my tablet. Admittedly, yes, it's not a great typing experience, but it's hugely betterer than having half my content covered by an on-screen keyboard, and not having the keys you actually want (WTH are the damn cursor keys? HTF do I shift-move-select some text? Where's the damn Escape key?) and not being able to see through my finger-tip to see where I'm actually typing, and not getting any tactile feedback to tell me I have actually pressed something.

              1. TRT Silver badge

                Re: That input problem

                It's a software keyboard. I have four different ones on my phone. You can type with whatever the hell you want! Although I have to admit, I'm looking to get the patent on finger sharpeners (for tiny buttons).

          2. JimboSmith Silver badge

            Re: That input problem

            The Typo keyboard was a good idea but was obviously a shameless copy of the BlackBerry keyboard. It’s a shame BlackBerry don’t produce one because I would be a customer.

            https://forums.theregister.com/forum/all/2015/06/01/american_idle_seacrest_startup_goes_nowhere/

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: Screen size will always be the limiting factor

        Simple little Bluetooth keyboard. You won't look back.

        In the summer of 2019 I wrote half of a novella (about a hundred pages) using that, a cheap Android tablet, and Google Docs.

        Just need to come up with some ideas, find the time, and have the desire to write to then finish the thing!

      3. arachnoid2
        Joke

        Re: Screen size will always be the limiting factor

        Because it limits how much realestate you can use for advertising

      4. andy 103

        Re: Screen size will always be the limiting factor

        "Is the difficulty in handling it a failure of HTML..."

        No, and that's very much the point of my original post. To look at it from that perspective is to say the issue could be dealt with by *software*, when it is in fact a *hardware* issue.

        The limiting factor is the physical screen size.

        You could do anything in software to try and get more/less on to the screen, present things in a different order... or whatever. But there comes a point very quickly where the available screen size just isn't enough to display things nicely. Generally the more complex a task you're doing the worse this problem is. In my view even doing something like booking a holiday is a laptop/desktop (or maybe a tablet) job - absolutely no way I'd be trying to do that on mobile.

  12. aerogems Silver badge

    Native is better

    While I agree that Apple has left Safari to rot, just like Microsoft did with IE6, web apps suck. I get the appeal as a developer, but as an end user, I like to keep them as last resorts. Doing everything on the web just means more and more unwieldy JavaScript scaffolds and duct tape holding everything together which wastes more and more CPU time. On a phone, that means it uses a lot of extra battery power. Battery life is already terrible on modern smartphones and every time the chip designers improve efficiency it's almost immediately countered by app developers getting that much lazier about optimizing their code, or just using some interpreted language like JavaScript instead of a compiled one like Swift.

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Native is better

      Apart from the waste of cycles, there's a much more important reason I hate web-apps. It's because the most basic stuff that a phone should just do without problems suddenly stops working if your reception become spotty (or isn't there). I don't need to pushing gigabytes of data through the aether for basic functionality that shouldn't need to run in a webbrowser.

      1. aerogems Silver badge

        Re: Native is better

        That too. You press the button to place an order for something just as you go into a tunnel and lose service. Did the order go through? Or you're trying to load a news story to kill time on public transit on the way to work and suddenly there's no Internet connection. What are you supposed to do? Talk to your fellow passengers? Be alone with your thoughts for a few minutes? What are we, savages!?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Native is better

          The irony of irony. I live in the country, even 3G is patchy around the area. Spend some time in a rural area and your shiny web app probably won’t even load using Edge.

        2. rejhgadellaa

          Re: Native is better

          But.. you will run into the exact same issues when you place an order or load an article just when your connection drops?

          I will admit that most websites will assume you have network (more so than native apps which, by definition, target a device that may or may not have connection), but if that site is built to work (at least partially) offline, it should also be able to handle those situations.

  13. General Purpose Silver badge

    Any examples?

    Are there any examples of sites that run much better in Android phone browsers than on iPhones under Webkit?

    Sure, most will be written to run the same on both and not take advantage of extra capabilities. But it would be great if someone, somewhere, provided some demonstration (or better yet, some usefully functioning site) of this article's central plank.

    1. Tessier-Ashpool

      Re: Any examples?

      Here's an example of a web page that allegedly works with Chrome but not Safari.

      https://service.msicomputer.com/msi_user/support/parts.aspx

      The reason? It's a very poorly written web page, and it's a miracle that any browser can make sense of the mangled HTML it generates.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Any examples?

      I'm not going to give a reference, but the company I work for has outsourced a lot of HR. So when we want to book days off, there's a snazzy website.

      Works fine with Firefox (desktop and mobile), and Chrome (mobile). Safari on a cow-orker's iPhone briefly flashes the "turn your device to portrait mode" message (something I disabled on my phone using UBlock's filtering as it actually works better in landscape), then gives a completely empty page.

      I've not looked at the page source. I'd rather imagine I'd run away screaming and then defenestrate myself at the earliest opportunity.

    3. v13

      Re: Any examples?

      Yes. It took ages for Apple to have good support for WebRTC.

      But you're missing the chicken and egg problem. The reason that the aren't many is because noone will choose not to support iPhones. Which is the gist of this article.

      What's wrong with iPhones allowing other browsers engines?

    4. Chris--S

      Re: Any examples?

      Not really the point. Supporting iOS Safari is pretty well a must, at least in the west. You’re shooting yourself in the foot if it doesn’t work right on iOS, and risking your invoices not being paid. It’s not as pad as the log IE6 days, but Safari is the outlier, most bugs to work around and most often holding back some “new thing” until all browsers support.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's not so bad...

    Safari on iPhone isn't so bad if you combine it with a content blocker. 1Blocker works for me. Ads and cookie warnings are largely gone. There are also decent alternative browsers that do much the same thing, Aloha for example.

  15. CommonBloke
    Flame

    That won't fix the web

    Simply because, as a few others stated, we're relying on POS sites developed with a "SHINY NEW JAVASCRIPT TECH" mentality.

    Chrome on Windows/Linux/Android is an absurd resource hog, even frigging Edge isn't as resource hungry!

    Webkit no longer being enforced on iOS won't fix that problem. Nor will it fix the boatload of sites loading >5MB of crapscripts to "enhance" the user experience

  16. bofh1961

    Heresy!

    Steve Jobs was the Messiah* and Tin Cook is the first Bishop of Cupertino. Android is Protestantism. For Apple fanbois their entire belief system is under threat!

    *Or possibly a serpent, given his ability to make people want apples.

    The entire smartphone ecosystem is rotten to the, er, core.

    1. ThatOne Silver badge
      Devil

      Re: Heresy!

      > *Or possibly a serpent, given his ability to make people want apples.

      Actually the bible originally never mentions apples, it only talks about "the forbidden fruit", whatever it might be. Could be a watermelon for all we know.

      Now obviously the apple with the bite mark is an allusion to the forbidden fruit in question, so imagine Apple Inc.'s logo being a bitten banana (Banana Inc.). Or the aforementioned watermelon (Watermelon Inc.)...

      1. Mike 16 Silver badge

        Forbidden Fruit

        ---

        Actually the bible originally never mentions apples

        ---

        Maybe not originally, but when I was _COMPELLED_ by some force to do a (very) little bit of research on the subject, I found an interesting conjecture, that the Apple was chosen by the Western Church because the Latin word for "Apple" sounded much like the Latin word for "evil". So the folks who made that editorial decision may just have been punsters.

        OTOH, I found that bit of knowledge on a Orthodox (Eastern) site:

        https://catalog.obitel-minsk.com/

        So their attitude toward "The West" may influence their writing.

        YMMV: Minsk is in Belarus.

        1. werdsmith Silver badge

          Re: Forbidden Fruit

          Malum.

          1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

            Re: Forbidden Fruit

            (Not to be confused with Malham.)

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Forbidden Fruit

              I vaguely remember some long-forgotten reading that suggested the forbidden fruit was a pomegranate. It's certainly the devil's fruit, all them damn seeds.

              1. ThatOne Silver badge

                Re: Forbidden Fruit

                It's a Jewish tradition IIRC. Pomegranates have always fascinated people, being indiscriminately used as a symbol of fertility or death. They also gave their name to the (explosive) grenade...

      2. heyrick Silver badge
        Happy

        Re: Heresy!

        A bitten banana? I would be thinking more "lips around the tip".

        Feel free to bring your own subtext.

  17. pinkmouse

    As far as I'm concerned, it all started going downhill after CSS...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Noooooooo

      CSS is wonderful, though it's a bit like APL or Lithp ... you can do great things but life is too short and nobody else can understand what you wrote ...

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge
        Coat

        CSS? Tha' dont know tha's born, lad. We 'ad to hand-roll frames in Notepad – FRAMES I tell ya! An' we were 'appy!

        1. I am the liquor

          Frames? Bloody luxury! In my day, the only tags we had were ˂p˃, ˂a˃ and ˂blink˃, and we had to type them directly into the output stream of the WWW daemon every time it recevied a GET request.

  18. DS999 Silver badge

    Lazy web developers

    Want to be able to target Chrome alone, and put a "best viewed with Chrome" label up if anyone dares browse their site with another browser. The only thing holding them back is Safari, through Apple's strong market share in developed countries. If Apple is made to distribute Chrome through its App Store, they don't have to code for Safari any longer. They will simply force Safari users to use Chrome whether they like it or not by not allowing their sites to work under Safari, and Google's browser monopoly will be complete.

    How in the world can one make the claim that forcing Apple to make this change will "change the world" while being OK with creating a browser monopoly for the single largest privacy violator in world history? I mean he's right it will change the world, but not in the way he thinks. Talk about missing the forest for the trees!

    If you want to force Apple to make this change, I'm fine with it so long as Google is forced to divest Chrome and not allowed to ever offer their own browser or influence the development of browsers. A company cannot be so deeply involved in web servers (via Search, GMail and Cloud) and client devices (via Android) and have the overwhelmingly largest presence in online advertising and be involved in browsers too! Google needs further breakup beyond browsers, but that's the minimum step that needs to be enforced before Apple's ability to limit browser engines is tampered with.

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: Lazy web developers

      I don't like Chrome either and would be happy if they took it away from Google. There are good arguments that Google is also exploiting monopoly power with it and should be restricted or broken up. However, these do not change that Apple's doing the same thing and Apple's actions don't prevent the situation you suggest.

      There already exists a version of Chrome for IOS. It uses WebKit internally, but it still has the Google devs and familiar logo. If they wanted, they could set up something that allows websites to only function there, and web developers can detect whether you're using Safari-WebKit or Chrome-WebKit and send users to get the Googly variant. I've seen a couple sites do that. Apple's ban on a browser having features they don't have doesn't prevent that kind of abusive behavior. It does let Apple restrict OS features in a way significantly stronger than anything Microsoft did with IE, and we know how well that ended for web standards. You don't have to like Google for Apple to be wrong.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    App store monopolies..

    Is this why we can't have browser extensions on mobile?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: App store monopolies..

      Yes

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: App store monopolies..

      How is it I'm using an ad blocking extension (Firefox Focus) to block ads browsing with Safari on my iPhone for years now?

      OK you don't have the variety of extensions you do on desktop, but the most important use of extensions is well supported at least on iOS. I don't know about the situation on Android, but Google has some obvious conflicts of interest there...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: App store monopolies..

        Oh well if there's one then it can't be restricted...

        1. DS999 Silver badge

          Re: App store monopolies..

          Searching "safari extension" in the App Store on my iPhone I see all kinds of extensions, not just ad blockers. So your claim is a lie, at least on iOS.

          Again, I don't know the situation on Android, but if there is not a vibrant market for Chrome extensions there Google is clearly solely to blame.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: App store monopolies..

            That's Safari though, how is it with Firefox, assuming you can get it on Apple?

  20. ThomH

    "it gives Apple the same veto on innovation as Microsoft had, which is where"

    Except it obviously doesn't, since Microsoft had control over 90% of the market, whereas Apple has control over around 20%.

    ... and that's why the EU is looking at the problem in terms of new legislation, to determine what they think overall market fairness requires, rather than targeting Apple specifically via anticompetition law, which can already be used to attack misuse of a monopoly position.

    Microsoft had a monopoly, Apple doesn't. The rest of the world can innovate, whether Apple likes it or not.

    1. LDS Silver badge

      "whereas Apple has control over around 20%."

      In US it's over 50%, and in many other countries above 40%. Of course because of the devices price Apple has a far smaller share in less rich countries. But antitrust laws take into account the local situation, if in Burkina Faso there are few Apple devices it's not a matter of theirs, unless they are the Burkina Faso antitrust.

      Also Microsoft never controlled what software you installed on its OS, since there was no Mordor-like store. Actually Apple has a far larger veto power than MS ever had.

    2. v13

      Re: "it gives Apple the same veto on innovation as Microsoft had, which is where"

      Then why was Google found guilty and forced to have a pop-up to ask the user to install other browsers every time you setup a new Android phone in the EU? By your account Android isn't a monopoly either.

  21. Joe Gurman

    Wait..

    What fraction of desktop/laptop browser usage did IE have back in the day referred to in the article?

    And what fraction of the mobile browser market does Safari command today?

    Apple, and, ER, eggs that have gone off.

  22. heyrick Silver badge

    Mobile browsing is only shit if you use a shit browser

    Firefox, even the latest broken-by-design one. Blocking, everything. Add-ons to block more. Whitelist of good sites.

    It's actually a much more pleasurable experience than using the desktop machine. And, yes, there are cookie pop-ups. And I want to get homicidal on the ass of whatever beaurocrat came up with "legitimate interest". But it's just the same crap on the desktop.

    If you do it right, however, a decent mobile device can be a good portal to the web.

  23. DesktopGuy

    interesting article but short on Any facts

    Just need to chime in that you start with IE was terrible - hardly updated in 4 years. This is pretty much accepted.

    This then leads in to Safari on mobile is also crap and by extension also a dinosaur that's never updated.

    Where are ANY examples or proof of this?

    Nothing wrong with choice - back when IE was dominating, many many websites would not work in Safari simply as they were coded for IE only quirks.

    If you have a browser with small market share, you are forgotten and not tested against during development.

    So say you open everything up and Safari looses it competitiveness and websites and web apps which are new the primary way to interact because you get rid of app stores stop working. Back to the good old days!

    Apple has shown they want to control the experience and not rely on other companies which is what lead them into the wilderness way back when.

    It's up to you wether you buy into this.

    I preference Safari mainly for the password syncing and the 2FA/Auth app support now built in which I haven't found as graceful with other solutions.

    Yes I deploy 1password and other password managers for business clients regularly, but it gets in way of smooth experience.

  24. quadibloc2

    Europe

    Lobbyists don't have nearly as much power in most European countries as they do in the United States.

    So it seems as though Apple's efforts to derail this law will come to naught, no matter how much it tries.

    Unless...

    What if Apple lobbies U.S. politicians, to convince them that if this law is passed, it's unfair trade discrimination against Apple, a U.S. company? So if they pass the law, Europe won't be able to export things like wine to the U.S.? That seems to be the likeliest direction for something to happen, although even there Apple won't be able to get the U.S. government to do anything too blatant.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Europe

      Who knows. There’s been some rumblings of economic retaliation if European countries pass a digital sales tax on companies like Amazon. That’s calmed down so far as I can tell since Joe Biden came to the Presidency. So yes, there’s a chance that the US gov might choose to make an issue of it, depending…

      However there’s definitely a mood now in US politics to take on big tech which many perceive to have grown too big for its boots. Google is in the firing line in most states and the federal government, with Apple probably next. [Interestingly MS isn’t, seemingly having successfully given the impression of being friendly to openness.] If this mood persists then Apple’s forced loss of control of browser engines may not be unpopular amongst the US politicians.

      What will be interesting is to see how far the politics of consumer rights penetrates into web standards. A lot of what makes web apps rubbish for end users is the ads, bloat, CPU wastage, data slurp, etc with web standards enabling more and more of that. If the web standards were reigned in and enforced, web apps might get better.

      But I’m not getting my hopes up, because my experience of straight up ad free web apps on even desktops is that they’re bloated slow junk, for anything other than fairly trivial stuff. Electron - yeurk.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Europe

        Give 'em enough eu'rope?

        1. Semtex451
          Joke

          Re: Europe

          Get yer Coat and get out

  25. Andrew Hodgkinson

    Today in "nonsense", we have...

    ...this article.

    Web apps are slower because the technologies upon which they are based are inherently and irrevocably slower and more resource intensive than native coded applications. An in-advance compiled application (actual native code) will always be tighter than cross-platform web technologies, including WASM since - apart from numerous other reasons - the WASM modules are still _driven from_ JavaScript. Even if a JIT's going to produce native code, that all comes at a cost of RAM and, on a resource constrained device, RAM is *very* precious.

    Below the JavaScript, you've got HTML and CSS which were never designed for application-like UIs, so it's a tortured mess of DIV soup and reams of CSS - typically messing around with the hyper-convoluted flexbox, especially if you have the audacity to want something that pre-flex Web found super hard and super advanced, like, y'know, vertical centring. Woah. Advanced stuff, web guys. As for autolayout with springs, struts and the like? Yeah, right. Once again, we're hacking around with bits of CSS that can be coerced into behaving in a similar fashion, given enough time and effort - and device resources to interpret and execute it all.

    (The recent example of the performance of LibreOffice ported to WASM was a pretty stark example of how efficient those technologies aren't).

    Moreover, there's no access to the native UI toolkit from these applications (no, HTML forms elements are *not* an application user interface toolkit). You need to construct everything from scratch. If you're lucky, you might be able to use a native form button and maybe an input field - but photo pickers, toolbars, popups, map views, tabs, master-detail views, navigation overlays, all of the animated transitions...

    Your device's global settings offer a *built-in* native toolkit dark mode? Text size options? Bold-text-everywhere? High contrast mode? Distinguish-without-colour? Button shape settings? On-off labels? Transparency reduction? Motion reduction? Numerous accessibility options for navigation like switch control or audio descriptions that just work out-of-box on native elements? Tough. Reimplement it all again, from scratch, different every time, limited by at-best the comparatively meagre attribute decorations that HTML offers for accessibility *and* only if your devs know to use them (and use them everywhere at, again, great cost in time, testing and maintenance).

    Even something as basic as proper scrolling mechanics often have to be coded from scratch, depending on what you're trying to scroll inside your giant tower of DIVs.

    The whole debate is asinine. If you want a web page, write a web page. If you want a "web app", fine, you don't want to pay fees except your own hosting. Live with the fact that you're either going to produce a sub-par user experience on the lowest of lowest common denominator cross-platform options, or you're going to burn a truly vast amount of money on extra engineering resource to try and reimplement all the things that native code would've given out-of-box on Android or iOS - right up until next year, at least, when a new iOS or Android version changes how things looks, or introduces new features that all the already-written native framework apps just 'get', but your web app doesn't.

    Want free of the "walled garden"? Good news! Android exists, and has a *huge* market share compared to iOS. Deploy off-store. Don't want to be limited by Safari on macOS? Good news! Windows and Linux exist and have an even *more* huge market share compared to macOS. I mean, who cares if you need to tell your users to bugger off and download the latest Chrome or Firefox or whatever because we all just *loved* it in the 1990s when web sites would tell us that our browsers weren't good enough, right? So knock yourselves out, use all those shiny new APIs that evil Apple isn't giving you.

    But what if you wanted that juicy income from those rich iOS folks but don't wanna bother writing a native app because hosting it on the App Store (or Google Play Store, for that matter) means 30%? Well then yeah, it's not about your users, is it? It's about the money. The users have to accept something slower, of unknown security, of unknown privacy and with no control over when updates happen.

    If any web app was worth beans then it'd be popular AF on Android, with people clamouring for a version on their Apple device, making Apple look bad until they did something about it. Ever heard of that for a web app? Even once? Nah, me neither.

    As for when Google is pushing the latest new web API? Be afraid - or did you think somehow that Google were any less evil, or any less self-interested, than Apple?

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Re: Today in "nonsense", we have...

      Agreed.

      One of the defences of web apps that’s often rolled out is that they’re fast enough that you can’t tell the difference between them and a native app. Apart from battery consumption, load time, app stalls dues to connectivity issues when out of reach of WiFi or nG, ads, slurp, changing UI as the developer gets bored and changes everything overnight, etc…

  26. JBowler

    Kill WebKit

    Nothing whining about Safari, or Chrome, or Brave or even Timid will fix that. The beast has to be killed; something that whines about having debugging turned on when it is built should be hung, drawn and eigthed, or, preferably one thousand and twenty fourth. Browsers that claim to be massively great and use webkit should be correctly identified as massively massive, and nothing else.

    The monopoly is in the enormous bloat; 99.99999% of web pages uses 0.00001% of that bloat, so if you debloat it just slightly 99.99% of web pages fail. But then, so what? 100% of web pages fail sooner or later if they use JavaScript or CSS or XML or SVG or, indeed, anything other than plain undecorated text.

    Please, someone, FORK WEBKIT. Give us webkit--

  27. Fursty Ferret

    Since Safari has ad-blocking built-in, and Chrome doesn't, I know which one I'm going to use on my phone.

    Very surprised that Apple's policy of blocking third party browsers on the iPhone (well, limiting them to using Safari's renderer) hasn't turned around and bitten them in anti-competitive behaviour issues yet.

  28. YetAnotherJoeBlow

    I sent some money to Waterfox - and I will keep doing that. Waterfox does not hate their customers either.

  29. venkatarangan

    Well-articulated summary of the state of mobile browsers.

    Apart from Apple, which you have rightfully explained, Google too is equally culpable. They make a great engine with Chromium, but on their mobile OS, Android, they too limit it and don't promote its capabilities due to the same vested revenue interests, of course not to the success (revenue) levels of Apple, which Google will be wishing they can.

    In recent years, I have heard Google talk less and less of PWAs in Windows & Mac, while Microsoft without any App store strategy of their own, is the own which is trying to promote it. Last week, there was a huge hue-and-cry over Microsoft trying out a search bar in the desktop of Windows 11 internal builds that opens in Edge only. I too wish it didn't behave that way, but the critics are going after a beaten horse.

    The tech biggies have proven over the last few decades, that they will not any consumer GOOD on their own, they will not adapt to the times but only protect their interest (innovators dillema) and governments & society have a role to make them change. Sadly, in 2022, that's where they have brought the free world.

    1. MonkeyJuice

      PWAs on the desktop were shunned by Mozilla, closed as wont implement because it was "unclear how a PWA should function on the desktop". That isn't to say they won't arrive in some form in the future, but Google's early fanfare kinda blew up in their face.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it really crippling the market?

    I’m no Apple fan but I do use Apple as my device, on the PC I use chrome. I’m happy to use both and have no intention of syncing across devices as I use them for different things. Btw, don’t like Google’s data collection either, but I live with it for this use case.

    So, I hear how Apple is holding the web back with their browser and it should allow chrome etc so web apps can flourish and we don’t need the Apple or Play stores... it even says that in the article.

    But, where are all these web apps that people would suggest happen if freed to do so, so they don’t have to target a device. This possibility exists already in Android, it has chrome, it can do it, but it still doesn’t happen.

    If they were that desperate, they would be targeting it and using that as leverage to Apple to sort their browser, but no, it doesn’t happen.

    Is it really Apple then that’s holding it back or are we just using them as the scapegoat?

  31. Sandgrounder
    Pint

    Commentard Bingo

    Take your seats folks, its Bingo time.

    - Web pages should be plain HTML, no scripting, no CSS

    Yep

    - Lazy Web Developers

    Yep

    - Why does anyone need a smartphone, The good old telegraph is fine for everyone

    Yep

    - Who uses a mobile anyway, it's much easier to whip out my desk, chair, 3 widescreen monitors (one portrait aspect) and boot up my workstation to find directions whilst on the move via my custom bash scripts

    Yep

    - Apple isn't a monopoly, Raspberry pi exists

    Yep

    - If you want a fully functional computer, optimised 10,000 times, that fits in your pocket, that can do almost anything anywhere and now you want to run your own software, go and built it yourself

    Yep

    - We should take what our Apple overloads prescribe and be grateful for it

    Yep

    HOUSE!

    1. ThomH

      Re: Commentard Bingo

      > Apple isn't a monopoly, Raspberry pi exists

      As said by absolutely no-one.

      However, Apple isn't a monopoly. Android exists. And the EU is drafting new legislation to address the damage to this market specifically because it can't just use its existing anti-competition law, because Apple isn't a monopoly. The EU believes it is doing harm without being a monopoly, as does the author.

  32. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Whenever I see an advert saying "download our app to buy our burgers/check our bus timetable/get a weather forecast" I always respond "I've already got an app to do that - A WEB BROWSER!!!!! USE IT!!!!!!"

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This article is totall gibberish.

    So based on the evidence of the article the author seems to have little or no insight into how the mobile software business actually works. How mobile / handheld applications have been developed for the last 25 years (PalmOS / Magic Cap?..). Ever seen inside or built from source any of the HTML rendering engines / JS interpreters, modified them, and tried to use them in commercial products. Or have any novel insight into the evolution of either mobile applications or web based applications business or technology. Some of us were doing CGI and TCL embedded scripts in 1994..

    But hey, he got his by-line and his few thousand words.

    The actual problem with Safari is the same as with the XCode fork of GCC. It mostly worked but when it doesnt there is no fix. You give up trying to understand the source of the Apple bug and work around. So very much like MS world since the late 1970's..

    The lock in with the App Store has nothing to do with Safari and everything to do with the certs and how they are used by Apple. They have zero to do with application / user security (like in Android, everywhere else) but have exactly the same functionality as any of the hardware base copy protection schemes used on game consoles over the decades. I know the provisioning process made zero sense when I first had to use it (when it was still a fully manual process) until I realized it was just a hardware / vendor lock-in. Nothing more. Imagine you are dealing with a strange copy protection scheme designed by Nintendo... After that no more problems with iOS app provisioning. Apart from the usual XCode flakiness that is.

  34. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    Sorry, while I can see the advantage of web apps for the developers (after all, you can develop one set of source code and target hundreds of platforms, rather than maintaining custom code for each), I don't see any real advantage for the users. Quite the contrary. By bunging all sorts of extra functionality (with all the potential for bugs) in an application that, by definition, needs access to the Internet, you are opening up users to a *lot* of security problems, even if the browser is properly sandboxed (and I don't think the mainstream ones are yet).

  35. hornetster

    Seriously??

    You talk like there is ONE PHONE on the market.

    If it gives you the sh*ts, go to what is arguably a better phone, but is DEFINITELY a more configurable, and FREE-er phone.

    Problem solved.

    Much better experience, more freedom of choice, and not stuck in "the environment"!!

    1. MonkeyJuice

      Unfortunately, for those with an actual job, it turns out the doughy eyed execs all carry Jesus mobes with them, and _insist_ we develop for them. It's their ball, and we have to follow their rules.

    2. Bruce Ordway

      go to what is arguably a better phone

      Until there are smartphones capable of replacing the desktop... I'll be happy with flip-phones.

      My opinion, smart phones of today are really only good at a few things and the interface sucks

      (and got developers to ruin the interfaces for a lot of software that primarily runs on PC's).

      I've always had this fantasy that we'll eventually get mobiles that are compatible with Linux / Windows and all related applications. e.g. docking system for power, keyboard, multiple monitors, etc...

      I would think there would be a market.. if ever became practical to manufacture?

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