An engineer who spent the last decade working on web browser projects at Google and Microsoft has ridiculed the characterization of Apple as the chosen champion.

In a new blog post (opens in a new tab), Alex Russell argues that the opposite is actually the case; he claims that Apple deliberately exerted its influence in the mobile operating system and hardware markets to "undermine the diversity of browser engines."

"Contrary to claims by Apple supporters, the iOS engine restrictions do not prevent a 'takeover' of Chromium, at least that is not the main effect," he wrote. "Apple is using its power over browsers to dismantle and sabotage the web, damaging all engine projects and draining the web of its future potential."

The case against Apple

According to Russell, Apple is impeding diversity in the web browser market in several ways, which it in turn unravels.

The main criticism is that the company continues to force developers to change the look and feel of its inferior WebKit engine if they want to implement a browser on iOS, a platform used by more than a billion people worldwide.

Although Russell praises the quality of the developers working on WebKit, he claims that Apple has significantly underfunded the browser engine, which is maintained by "minimal staff" and therefore cannot compete with Blink (based on Chromium).

The result, he says, is that third-party developers incur significant additional costs associated with building their multi-engine apps, while the iOS browser market lacks innovation. Mozilla, the maker of Firefox, is said to have delayed its entry into iOS for "about seven years" due to strict requirements from Apple.

“Today Apple does not compete outside its territory and when it has an agency it prevents others from doing so. These are not the actions of a company that consciously tries to promote engine diversity. If Apple is an ally in this cause, it's only by accident," Russell said.

"Theories positing a Chromium acquisition deny Apple's power over a situation it created and is committed to renewing annually through its budget process."

Russell also pointed to the reluctance with which Apple introduced the ability to change the default browser in iOS. It wasn't until antitrust regulators began to catch on that Apple took these steps in 2020.

In some cases, iOS would still override the new default when links were opened from within certain apps, which Russell said created a shared browsing experience that negatively impacted users, developers, and publishers.

“The pantomime of browser choice on iOS has created an anemic and amnesiac web. Typing links is more tedious than browsing when autocomplete fails, passwords are lost, and login status is forgotten. Browsers are losing their value as the web is no longer a reliable means of getting things done. »

“By taking a huge amount of money to build browsers, giving as little as possible back to engine development, and preventing others from filling the void, Apple has jeopardized the web ecosystem by destroying the usefulness of a diverse population of browsers and engines.

TechRadar Pro has asked Apple for a response to Russel's arguments.

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