Google Building New iOS Browser That Violates App Store Rules

Google appears to be working on a new web browser for iOS based on the tech giant’s own Blink engine instead of Apple’s WebKit, in violation of the App Store Review Guidelines — reports The Register.

The in-development browser was referenced in a recent Chromium bug report, but Google says it won’t actually release it. “This experimental application will be used to measure graphics and input latencies by providing traces for analysis,” the bug report notes, adding it is “experimental only, not a launch bug for a shippable product.”

Google offered The Register a similar response. “This is an experimental prototype that we are developing as part of an open source project with the goal to understand certain aspects of performance on iOS,” a spokesperson for the company told the publication. “It will not be available to users and we’ll continue to abide by Apple’s policies.”

Apple does not allow web browsers built on any engine other than WebKit onto the App Store. “Apps that browse the web must use the appropriate WebKit framework and WebKit Javascript,” Apple’s App Store rules state.

The restriction makes all web browsers available on iOS similar in functionality to Apple’s Safari, and it also makes it harder for browser developers to innovate. However, Apple’s monopolistic approach to its ecosystem and authority over the App Store has recently faced legal and regulatory challenges from the world over due to concerns it stifles competition.

Governments and regulators in several countries have been raising many issues pertaining to Apple’s dominance over its devices and the App Store, the company’s prohibition of web browsers that don’t use its own engine among them.

The European Union’s Digital Markets Act, for example, targets Apple’s iron grip over the App Store. It will force the tech giant to allow iPhone users to “sideload” apps from sources other than the App Store by March 2024.

More recently, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) issued a report insisting that the mobile app ecosystem needs pro-competitive changes.

While it’s entirely plausible that Google is simply testing web browser capabilities on iOS, it’s also possible that this is the company’s way of getting a head start on an actually home-grown browser in anticipation of eventually being able to distribute it, either through the App Store or a third-party marketplace.

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