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March 4, 2024updated 06 Mar 2024 11:29am

Apple reverses decision to ban progressive web apps following user backlash

The tech giant has reversed updates that would kill off progressive web apps (PWA) following complaints from EU users.

By Tech Monitor Staff

Apple has reversed decisions that would shut down progressive web apps (PWA), following complaints from its EU users. The tech firm had originally asserted that removing apps which bypass Apple’s own appstore was necessary to comply with the Digital Markets Act (DMA).

Apple will now restore the feature for users to the performance standards of the iOS 17.3 in the iOS 17.4 on 5 March. The EU DMA comes into effect on 8 March. The DMA aims to ensure that large platforms in digital markets or “gatekeepers” like Apple behave fairly online. Alongside the Digital Services Act, the DMA functions as a pillar of the European digital strategy.

Apple has reversed decisions to remove progressive web apps after pressure from EU users. (Photo by Tada Images via Shutterstock)

Apple initially claimed that removing PWAs – a type of web-based application software that looks and behaves as though it is an app – due to privacy and security concerns was a move to increase compliance with the DMA as “alternative engines would require building a new integration architecture.” But accusations of additional fees and unfair market competition from some of the firm’s largest users have prompted Apple to restore them.

Complaints on compliance issues

Apple’s original changes were announced on 25 January 2024, but in a letter to the European Commission, several EU companies and associations complained that Apple’s changes “made a mockery” of the law’s requirements and efforts by the European Commission and EU to make digital markets competitive. It said that Apple’s original changes would include the “unworkable choice between staying on its current terms – which are manifestly not compliant with the DMA – or opting into new terms,” the latter of whom only will benefit from the DMA.

By working outside of Apple’s app marketplace, developers were able to bypass the firm’s proposed 30% commission on digital purchases. In Apple’s proposed fee structure, those who would build apps in alternative stores were proposed a cut to the highest amount paid by companies using its app store from 30% to 17%. A series of additional charges had been introduced, however, including a core technology fee (CTF) on every app download or update of those with more than 1 million downloads.

The decision reversal following these pressures means the feature will continue to be built on Webkit and its security architecture, which Apple claims “aligns with the security and privacy model for native apps on iOS”. Additional pressure was applied from a threat to inspect the issue by European Commission authorities who said  they would be reviewing the compliance packages of gatekeepers, including Apple. In a statement made on February 26th, European Commission stated, “In that context, we’re in particular looking into the issue of progressive web apps, and can confirm sending the requests for information to Apple and to app developers, who can provide useful information for our assessment.”

Demands for fairer competition

The complaints are reflective of tech companies’ demands to have fair competition for developers in app marketplaces and the wider industry, as companies expound Apple’s unfair dominance and impinged fees for EU users. In light of Apple’s unfair free structure, the companies who implemented complaints have highlighted that creating opportunities for fair competition should be a priority for the DMA.  

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The signatories claimed that Apple’s changes “disregard both the spirit and letter of the law” and demonstrated the unfair maintenance of “Apple’s dominance over app developers” that would “erect new barriers and reinforce Apple’s stronghold over the iPhone ecosystem,” if unchanged.

Read more: News publications sue OpenAI and Microsoft over copyright issues

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