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Japan’s report on mobile ecosystems is published

The Japanese government’s competition regulator (Secretariat of the Headquarters for Digital Market Competition) has been investigating the competitiveness of the mobile ecosystem (so, in reality, the entrenched duopoly of iOS and Android). As part of Open Web Advocacy, I was invited to two briefings with a panel of regulators. It seems they listened to us, as the report talks extensively of browser engines, thereby preventing Apple muddying the water by their usual tactic of clutching their pearls, swooning onto the nearest diamond-encrusted chaise longue while sobbing “other browsers are available in the App Store”, avoiding mentioning that all those “other browsers” are compelled to be branded skins of WebKit.

The report was published on 16 June 2023, and is now available in English: Competition Assessment of the Mobile Ecosystem. Final Report : Summary (PDF).

Some key conclusions:

Mandatory use of WebKit impedes fair and equitable competition between Safari and third-party browsers … Hindering the development of web apps …adversely affecting the competitive environment in entire mobile ecosystem.

Safari or WebKit has many unavailable features and poor performance … On iOS, some features are available only for Safari, and are/were not available for 3rd party browsers … Safari lags behind web app support.

Hence, the Japanese regulator proposes an end to the #appleBrowserBan:

Platform operators that provide OS of a certain size or larger shall be prohibited from requiring app developers to use OS providers’ own browser engines.

The next steps:

based on this final report, to consider the legal framework necessary to ensure a fair and equitable competition environment in the mobile ecosystem, while assessing the situation in other countries such as Europe and the United States.

Open Web Advocacy were invited to meet the regulators on 11 July to give our response, the gist of which is that we’re delighted with the spirit of the report, but suggested some wording changes to reduce the risk of malicious compliance by those entities which would be affected.

So now we have a law in the EU –the Digital Markets Act– prohibiting the Apple Browser Ban, a UK government Bill to legislate to give statutory powers to the Competition and Markets Agency which has already ruled against Apple, and positive reports from the Japanese and Australian regulators. What about the USA? Lol. Political bullshit and corruption has paralysed any action, of course.

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