Alex Russell, Google Chrome Web Standard Lead, updated a post on his website during the weekend to “undermine a key part of the Cupertino company's antitrust defense,” on the day that the Apple and Epic lawsuit begins.
He says web apps cannot deliver the required performance on iPhones because Apple forces all browsers to use WebKit, which is outdated and does not have enough power.
Russell makes this “bold” assertion and attempts to provide it by mining publicly available data on the pace of compatibility fixes and feature additions to assess the claim.
His post is not a critique of those on the Safari development team or the WebKit project, he writes, but rather a “plea for Apple to fund their work adequately.”
In fact, he calls Apple engineers “some of the best engine developers globally" who he says "genuinely want good things for the web." He adds that "Apple Corporate is at fault, not Open Source engineers or the line managers who support them.”
The post, which appears on 9To5mac, is extensive and detailed. It asserts that Apple denies the iOS App Store amounts to a monopoly because “developers can create apps for other platforms” such as Android and games consoles, and “those who want to reach iPhone users can simply create web apps.” It’s the latter claim that has come under fire.
Russell provides an interesting perspective. He says that in many cases, Safari is not just incompatible with other browsers, it doesn’t conform to agreed web standards.
When it comes to device APIs, which gives some devices access to others. Not only access to devices, but access to the data each supports.
Russell details performance challenges as well as compatibility issues. He provides a graph that measures how often other browsers are compatible, for example.
“An area where browsers makers disagree fervently, but where Chromium-based browsers have forged ahead (Chrome, Edge, Samsung Internet, Opera, UC, etc.) is access to hardware devices,” Russell wrote. “While not essential to most ‘traditional’ web apps, these features are foundational for vibrant categories like education and creative music applications. iOS Safari supports none of them today, while Chromium browsers on other OSes enable these apps on the web,” such as Bluetooth, MIDI, USB, Serial, HID, NFC, among others.
Russell even details where Chrome has missed API updates for the past three years. And then he compares them to where Safari has lagged and missed updates.
“Were Apple willing to allow the sort of honest browser competition for iOS that MacOS users enjoy, features like these would enable entirely new classes of web applications,” he wrote. “Perhaps that's the problem.”