iCloud Private Relay Will Launch as a Public Beta

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

Apple, in its iOS 15 beta 7 release notes:

iCloud Private Relay will be released as a public beta to gather additional feedback and improve website compatibility.

[…] It seems like Apple’s slowing this roll-out down, at least in part, because there are lingering compatibility issues with some websites—most notably sites that are displaying the wrong region-specific content, or getting confused when signing in a user. There are some fairly easy remedies web developers can do to make these issues go away, but getting the web to adjust to any new feature takes time, and Apple appears to have erred on the side of caution.

This is what happens in mid-to-late August each year: some features announced at WWDC get postponed for subsequent dot releases throughout the year (15.1, 15.2, etc.), and occasionally something will ship with the .0 public release, but with the “beta” label. My personal experience with iCloud Private Relay echoes Snell’s description above. It’s good and useful and is worth giving everyone access to, but the current level of web-wide site compatibility feels beta. (Mail Privacy Protection — a new feature in Apple Mail that loads email images privately, is not affected by this announcement. That feature (though not quite perfect yet) is ready to ship.)

Here’s my concern about iCloud Private Relay compatibility, though: if web publishers want to make sure their sites are compatible with iCloud Private Relay, they can make it work. They might just need more time. But everyone knows there are sites that aren’t interested in your privacy. That’s the whole reason Apple even made this feature. For a lot of websites, if the answer to an iCloud Private Relay compatibility issue is “Disable iCloud Private Relay”, that’s fine by them. For a lot of privacy-invasive web publishers, their goal, I suspect, is to break iCloud Private Relay, not fix their shit-ass websites to work with it. Think about how most websites you visit try to detect privacy-protecting content blockers. They’re not on our side. The problem isn’t that such web publishers need to update their technology to work with iCloud Private Relay, it’s that Apple needs to improve iCloud Private Relay to work around their roadblocks.

The relationship between most ad-funded websites and their visitors is adversarial. These jerkoff web publishers claim otherwise, but that’s the truth. And iCloud Private Relay is a feature that is entirely on the user’s side. (Daring Fireball and Six Colors, of course, work just fine with iCloud Private Relay.)

Wednesday, 25 August 2021