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Web devs create advocacy group aimed at relaxing iOS browser restrictions

The newly launched Open Web Advocacy (OWA) hopes to convince Apple to allow third-party browser engines on iOS.

The advocacy group, formed by software developers in the U.K., aims to promote a more open web by helping to ease some of Apple's more restrictive requirements for web apps. They express concern that Apple's current restrictions stifle innovation on mobile devices.

One of the groups founders, Stuart Langridge, explains the issue to The Register, as spotted by 9to5mac.

"[E]very browser on iOS, whether it be badged Chrome, Firefox or Edge is actually just a branded skin of Safari, which lags behind [other browsers] because it has no competition on iOS."

This is because all web content on iOS must use WebKit as their browser engine, essentially forcing all browser apps to function as skinned versions of Safari.

Apple limits what functions third-party browsers can do. For example, Langridge points out that third-party browsers cannot add shortcuts to the Home Screen. They also can't operate in full-screen, nor can they use Apple Pay.

On OWA's website, the group claims that the Safari/WebKit team has stalled in innovation for the last ten years and actively prevented Web Apps from taking off on mobile.

The group states that browsers must become their own standalone apps rather than requiring WebKit. They argue that standalone web apps would offer equivalent functionality to those built on WebKit and could even offer greater privacy and security.

The group plans to meet with the U.K. Competitions and Markets Authority to convince them that Apple needs to relax its current policies.

Apple has long been criticized for gating off certain features, especially on iPhone. Many banks and credit card companies have petitioned regulatory committees for access to the iPhone NFC chip, allowing them to create direct competitors to Apple Pay.