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Okay, okay, so perhaps the title is a little hyperbolic. But this is a very important week. The UK monopoly regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), is investigating Apple and Google’s mobile app stores. The opportunity for comments closes at 5pm UK time on 7 February. Here are some pre-written sample emails you can use. (If you’re in the USA, contact your elected senator; things are getting serious in Washington, too.)
if you are a UK developer, or non-UK but do business in the UK, you can let CMA know what you think about Apple’s refusal to allow other browser engines on iOS. iDevice owners can download something called Chrome or Firefox, but they are branded skins of WebKit, the same engine that Safari uses and Apple controls. This is because of Apple’s App Store rule 2.5.6:
This is ostensibly to protect user privacy and security. However, last week Apple finally patched a bug that meant web users’ web history was leaking, 58 days after it was initially reported to them:
The leak was reported to the WebKit Bug Tracker on November 28, 2021 as bug 233548.
Update (Wednesday January 26th 2022): Apple has released Safari 15.3 on iOS and macOS where this vulnerability has been fixed.
For almost two months, iOS web users’ data was vulnerable–and downloading a differently-named browser would not have helped, because of Apple’s rule 2.5.6.
The lack of browser choice on iOS means that Progressive Web Apps can’t be distributed on iOS as they can on all other browsers. This means that developers either have to use a much less reliable technology like React Native (from Facebook) or make two apps, one for Android and one for iOS (and, potentially, a web app). This greatly increases development and testing costs for businesses. And, of course, developers must pay fees to Apple to be in their developer programme, plus a percentage to be listed in the App Store.
The CMA’s interim report came out in December, and was scathing. It suggests some potential remedies it could require:
- making it easier to switch browser, resulting in greater competition between browsers
- requiring Apple’s operating system to allow third-party browser engines on iOS, or in the alternative to require Apple to allow web app developers greater interoperability with its mobile ecosystem
- addressing the ability of Apple and Google to exercise market power by using browser settings to favour other parts of their mobile ecosystems, in particular digital advertising.
If you agree (or disagree) with any of these suggested requirements of Apple, please email CMA before 7 Feburary.
It would be useful to tell them as many of these as is appropriate
- If you are a UK resident, or your organisation does business in UK
- A brief summary of the interests or organisations you represent
- whether you are providing any material that you consider to be confidential, and explain why this is the case; and if the response contains confidential information, please also provide a non-confidential version of your response alongside it.
- The specific ways in which unfair App Store or Browser choice policies have hurt your business (think lost revenue, increased costs, bugs, etc.)
- Specific missing features and bugs that cause your ongoing business harm
- What you would like CMA to do (e.g., alternative browser engines on iOS) and between the web and native (e.g., the inability to offer a lower-cost, higher service web experience vs being forced into app stores)
- If you are an individual (ie you are not representing an organisation), please indicate whether you wish for your response to be attributed to you by name or published anonymously
It doesn’t have to be long, but we need CMA to see how Safari (and lack of alternatives) hurts developers, and businesses, and ultimately consumers. Perhaps you could derive inspiration from this response by Jeremy Keith or Aaron T. Grogg. You *will* be listened to; they listened to me (twice!) and I’m no cleverer than you. The final report is due to be published in June 2022.
Please, make your voice heard.
Post: Mobile Ecosystems Market Study
Competition and Markets Authority
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