Safari isn’t the problem, but the lack of browser choice in iOS is.

Recently there has a been a lot of debate wether Safari is the new IE, or Apple simply is building a user-centric web, but I think that removes focus from the real problem.

The problem isn’t Safari. It’s a somewhat modern browser that in the eyes of some might lack some important features, but overall is still pretty good and modern.

The real problem is Apple’s lack of browser-choice in iOS, and that’s a problem for several reasons:

  • It’s holding the web back for a certain segment of users, as they only are allowed to experience “Apple’s version of the web”, not open and ever-green web we are seeing delivered by Google’s Chrome and Mozilla’s Firefox on other platforms.

  • It’s limiting the browser-vendor competition on Apple’s iOS platfrom, as Apple are the only one allowed to innovate within the browser engine. This for example means Google are limited to only compete on the UI-front in Chrome, and can’t bring new platform features, that already are available on other platforms, to iOS.

  • It’s creates a big overhead for web developers as they forced to cater for mobile Safari’s slow update cycle, with hacks and workarounds for bugs and issues, that are fixed in other browsers. This is where the “new IE” reasoning has it’s roots.

  • It’s holding the mobile web back, as the web isn’t better than the lowest common denominator, and by having a dominant mobile platform where the web only is being updated once a year, and by one vendor, it simply slows down the distribution of new features, which ultimately slows down the innovation on the web.

This is why I suggested to start a petition, so we, in the web community, can raise our voices and create awareness of this fundamental problem for the web.

As a vendor of dominant mobile operating system, Apple, should make a real browser choice possible in iOS in order to ensure fair competition and innovation. Any other major operating system (Android, Windows, OSX, Linux) has a free browser choice, and iOS should be no different.

To me this this draws many parallels to the antitrust case against Microsoft back in the golden-era of Windows, as Safari is deeply integrated into iOS. It can’t be removed or replaced. It’s forcefully distributed by Apple, and is embedded inside native applications as WebViews. Since I’m not a lawyer, I don’t know if there exists similar legal reasoning as in the Microsoft case, but I do see the similarities when comparing the two.

In the recent years our community has talked about the lack of browser choice in iOS, and how it’s a problem, but I think the time has come to, that we demand a browser choice, so Apple I have something to say.

Dear Apple

We are a bunch of passionate people that really want make the web better for everyone, but you are holding us back.

It’s alright you don’t have the resources to drive the web, or you simply don’t want to anymore, but now is the time, to open up the browser-lock in iOS and allow us to innovate.

The good news is that I’m not alone with this; Jake from the Chrome team, and given his bias of working from a competing vendor; he agree’s with me:

So let’s put some power behind a petition and get this ball rolling. It’s about time that we get a free browser choice on iOS.

This post is written on the train to Narita airport in Tokyo, so bear with me on typos, etc.