Bruce Lawson’s personal site

American regulator seeks comments on the Apple Browser Ban

In the USA, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) is requesting comments on competition in the mobile application ecosystem after Biden signed Executive Order 14036 on Promoting Competition in the American Economy:

today a small number of dominant internet platforms use their power to exclude market entrants, to extract monopoly profits, and to gather intimate personal information that they can exploit for their own advantage. Too many small businesses across the economy depend on those platforms and a few online marketplaces for their survival

NTIA is looking for “concrete and specific information as to what app developers, organizations, and device (i.e.,phones; tablets) users experience, and any potential challenges or barriers that limit app distribution or user adoption”. Written comments must be received on or before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on May 23, 2022.

Several of its questions encompass Apple hamstringing Progressive Web Apps by requiring all iThing browsers use its own bundled WebKit framework, which has less power than Safari or single-platform iOS apps. Here are some of the questions:

I urge American developers to send comments to NTIA, whether you’re in favour of Apple allowing real browser choice on iOS by setting Safari free, or against it. You’re welcome to use Bringing Competition to Walled Gardens, our response to a similar investigation by the UK Competition and Markets Authority for inspiration/ cutting and pasting. Make your voice heard!

Reading List 289

Reading List 288

Leverage accessibility synergies and turbo-boost your remuneration potential with these three weird tricks!

Your chums at WebAIM report

The Wall Street Journal indicated that many companies are looking for personnel with accessibility skills and that they can’t find them easily…The number of job listings with ‘accessibility’ in the title grew 78% in the year ending in July [2021] from the previous 12 months, LinkedIn said.

Get ahead! Crush, grind, mash and maim lesser developers! Earn more cash! You can acquire better “accessibility skills” than 90% of the developers on the market by

(The first two are foundational skills for anyone whose code is allowed anywhere near a web browser. The latter is a foundational skill for ‘being a decent human being’)

(Last Updated on 13 March 2022)

Reading List 287

Reading List 286

Tories and pedophiles

Jimmy Savile handing Margaret Thatcher a cheque. Both are holding signs saying 'NSPCC is great'

There has been a lot of talk recently about Boris Johnson’s baseless assertion that the leader of the opposition, Keir Starmer, protected the notorious pedophile Jimmy Savile. Johnson’s top policy aide, Munira Mirza, resigned in protest:

I believe it was wrong for you to imply this week that Keir Starmer was personally responsible for allowing Jimmy Savile to escape justice. There was no fair or reasonable basis for that assertion. This was not the usual cut and thrust of politics; it was an inappropriate and partisan reference to a horrendous case of child sex abuse. You tried to clarify your position today but, despite my urging, you did not apologise for the misleading impression you gave.

Yesterday, Starmer was hounded off the street by a mob shouting about Jimmy Savile on his way to Parliament, and had to be rescued by police.

The Far Right loves its pedophile conspiracies. But they have a very short memory when they choose to pin the blame purely on left-of-centre politicians.

For example, the darling of the Right Margaret Thatcher lobbied for Savile knighthood despite warnings, and was told

The case of Jimmy Savile is difficult. Mr Savile is a strange and complex man. He deserves high praise for the lead he offers in giving quiet background help to the sick. But he has made no attempt to deny the accounts in the press about his private life.

As Prime Minister, Thatcher always invited him to her retreat at Chequers on Boxing Day. She finally got him knighted after her fifth attempt, in her final Honours List.

Of course, Savile was a friend of many high-profile people of all political stripes (although rumours were well-known; even as an aspiring teenage actor in Birmingham in the 80s, older friends in the business jokingly warned me about Savile.) She obviously wouldn’t have been so close to him if she knew the truth… would she?

We now know that Mrs Thatcher was told that Liberal MP Cyril Smith was investigated for “indecent assault against teenage boys”, but he was nevertheless knighted in 1988 when she was Prime Minister.

And again! Thatcher personally supported Peter Morrison, her private secretary, who had an alleged “penchant for small boys”

And again! Thatcher stopped Peter Hayman being named as paedophile-link civil servant, a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange group, who sent indecent material to others by post and had sexual fantasies about children, even after she had been fully briefed on his activities.

Let us remember Liz Truss’ moving tribute to Savile:

Used to see Jimmy Savile at the Flying Pizza on Street Lane, Roundhay. Always in good spirits. RIP

Of course, that was before everyone knew what Savile had done. Much more recently, in 2019, Boris Johnson himself believed that historic pedophila is not worth investigating. He said police money is ‘spaffed up a wall’ when spent on historic child sex abuse investigations, so presumably pedophiles should be allowed to get away with it once they’ve stopped.

It seems that the further to the Right someone is, the more they are apologists for kiddy-fiddlers. For example, Poundshop Fuhrer “Tommy Robinson” loves to whip up hatred of muslims by campaigning against “grooming gangs”, yet had no qualms about supporting Richard Price, a leader of the English Defence League, even after he was convicted of making indecent images of children. The EDL has many pedophiles in its ranks.

I don’t think that accusing each other of excusing Savile or other pedophiles is part of the cut and thrust of politics, and it does a disservice to victims of sexual abuse. But if you’re going to engage in it, at least get your facts straight.

Update 14 April 2022: Also, let us not forget Tory MP Imran Ahmad Khan, found guilty of sexually assaulting a 15-year-old, and former Tory justice minister Crispin Blunt who called Khan’s conviction “a stain on our reputation for justice” and said “I hope for the return of Imran Ahmad Khan to the public service that has exemplified his life to date.”

Khan’s party leader Boris Johnson declined to apologise after it emerged that a Tory MP who molested a 15 year-old boy was advising the government on child sexual exploitation.

(Last Updated on 13 July 2022)

Sample emails to CMA about the Apple Browser Ban

As you’re probably heartily sick of me telling you, the deadline to send comments to the UK monopoly regulator about its interim report on the mobile app ecosystem is 5pm on 7 February.

As the report is massive, many people will be put off reading it, although I’ve summarised it. But you can still let the regulator know what you think, with my handy persona-based email starter kit! Just choose one from the following, add any details from your personal experience you deem appropriate, paste into your email client and send it to mobileecosystems@cma.gov.uk

“As an iOS user, I am appalled that Safari was leaking my data for almost 2 months before it was fixed. On any other OS, I would use a different browser, but Apple’s App Store rule 2.5.6 requires all browsers to use its WebKit engine. If Apple can’t protect me, let me choose another browser”

“As a web developer, my job is made much harder because Safari lags behind other browser engines. I can’t usefully ask iOS users to choose another browser because Apple’s App Store rule 2.5.6 requires them to use Apple’s engine. This makes development more costly.”

“As a business owner, I would like to use mature, robust web technologies to deliver a Progressive Web App to Android and iOS. Apple’s App Store rule 2.5.6 cripples PWAs on iOS, so I must distribute and maintain 2 separate apps, greatly increasing costs and requiring payment to Apple.”

“As an Apple shareholder, I think it’s great that people can’t employ free technologies used on the web for 20 years to compete with native apps in Apple’s App Store. The revenue from developer licenses and the 30% fee we levy sure tastes good. Long live rule 2.5.6!”

It would be useful to tell them as many of these as is appropriate

Please, make your voice heard.

One week left to save the Web!

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:

Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript.

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:

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

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.

Email: mobileecosystems@cma.gov.uk

Post: Mobile Ecosystems Market Study
Competition and Markets Authority
25 Cabot Square
London
E14 4QZ

(Last Updated on 7 February 2022)

Reading List 285