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Apple, the DMA, and malicious compliance

If you’re the kind of gorgeous funbundle who reads my blog, you’ve doubtless heard that Apple will finally allow full versions of Chrome and Firefox to run on the iPhone, but only in the European Union. This geo-fencing is because Apple has been dragged kicking and screaming into ending its browser monopoly by the European Union’s Digital Markets Act.

Of course, Apple isn’t giving in without some petulant whining in its announcement. Whatever. But more important than its sadness that “the new options for developers’ EU apps create new risks to Apple users and their devices” (conveniently forgetting that WebKit consistently has the poorest record of shipping bug fixes to users) are the restrictive terms under which competition is allowed.

Here’s a video explainer, if video explainers are your thing:

Call me “Brucestradamus”, but I predicted legal shenanigans from Apple as it began to wriggle. I don’t know what the EU can do about Apple’s malicious compliance; the Commission asked us to brief them several times to understand the technical ramifications of the WebKit monopoly (before we turned up, there was nothing in the drafts about PWAs or the restrictions on browser engines). Quite rightly, it didn’t ask us to draft legislation or its enforcement procedures. This is as it should be.

Cleverer people than me, who know about law, have said that Apple is taking the European Commission for fools:

my initial reaction to Apple’s announcement (and related documentation) is that Apple is not seriously complying with the DMA. The objectives of the DMA are to bring contestability and fairness in digital markets, and this is not achieved here. Apple shows disdain for both the DMA and app developers. Its approach to DMA implementation appears to do little for users, other than to deprive them from meaningful choice on the need for protection.

We at Open Web Advocacy didn’t only talk to the European Union. We’ve briefed the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (whose investigation restarted on 24 January after Apple did some more silliness with lawyers), as well as the Japanese and Australian regulators – and another huge regulator which has asked not to be named. You can bet that all of these will be watching Apple’s malicious compliance very closely, and making notes for when they draft their rules.

Apple continues to find innovative ways to stifle competition, deny consumers meaningful choice, and damage the Web. But its days of doing this are numbered.

Good.

In the meantime, I am going out in a few hours to celebrate the fact that Stuart Langridge, co-conspirator and friend, did not die in the year since his last birthday. While we carouse until the second cock, it is plausible that we may raise a glass to celebrate how our little ragtag gang of web developers scattered across the globe is forcing the world’s largest company to begin to behave itself.

(Needless to say, this is my take on the situation and I speak for nobody else. Our “official” Open Web Advocacy blogpost is “Apple’s plan to allow browser competition dubbed unworkable“. Read that, too!)

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