Apple recently released iOS 17.4 beta to comply with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) antitrust legislation, which forced the company to allow alternative app stores on the iPhone. The update also brings some changes related to web browsers – and some bad news too. Users in the EU who have installed the beta have noticed that they can no longer install and run web apps on their iPhone.

Web apps no longer work for iPhone users in the EU

From the very beginning, Apple has allowed users to add websites to the iPhone Home Screen, so that they can be used as web apps. Over the last few years, Apple has added many features to improve support for web apps. For example, iOS 16.4 allowed PWAs to deliver push notifications with icon badges.

But all those improvements seem to have gone now – at least for those in Europe. As noted by developer Maximiliano Firtman, iOS 17.4 beta removes support for progressive web apps (PWA) from the system for users located in the EU.

At first, Firtman believed that PWAs weren’t working in the iOS 17.4 beta due to a bug. However, with the release of iOS 17.4 beta 2 earlier this week, the system now shows an alert telling users that web apps “will open from your default browser from now on.” And although you can still add websites to the iPhone Home Screen, they simply open in the user’s default web browser.

This has a lot of consequences for users. For example, all data stored by these web apps is automatically deleted with the update. Websites can also no longer send push notifications to users.

iOS 17.4 and the DMA

Apple is yet to comment on these changes, but they seem to be related to the DMA. One of the requirements set by the new EU legislation is that Apple must let developers create web browsers with their own engine. Currently, every web browser available on iOS must be based on Apple’s WebKit.

As a result, iOS 17.4 not only lets developers release web browsers with alternative engines in the EU, but the system now asks which web browser the user wants by default. However, since the web apps are also based on Safari and WebKit, Apple may have opted to remove PWAs in the EU so that it wouldn’t be accused of further leveraging its own engine.

It’s still unclear at this point whether Apple will come up with a workaround or whether PWAs will be a thing of the past for those living in the EU.

iOS 17.4 is expected to be released to the public in the first week of March.

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