Google and Mozilla Are Working on Versions of Chrome and Firefox for iOS That Don’t Use WebKit

Ben Lovejoy, rounding up the latest in mobile browser news for 9to5Mac:

Currently, anyone can create a new iPhone browser, but with one huge restriction: Apple insists that it uses the same WebKit rendering engine as Safari. [...] Apple is therefore expected to drop the WebKit requirement sooner rather than later. In particular, the European Digital Markets Act looks set to force the hand of the iPhone maker, with reports that Apple will drop the requirement as part of iOS 17 later this year.

Both Google and Mozilla are now working on new iOS browsers which use the same rendering engines as their desktop browsers.

For Google’s Chrome, that’s Blink:

Google’s Chromium team has moved full steam ahead on porting Blink to iOS, introducing dozens of related code changes in the past week. At the pace things are progressing, we may have our first look at the browser engine for Chrome — and Microsoft Edge, Opera, and more — running on iOS in the coming weeks.

For Mozilla’s Firefox, it’s Gecko:

Mozilla is planning for the day when Apple will no longer require its competitors to use the WebKit browser engine in iOS. Mozilla conducted similar experiments that never went anywhere years ago but in October 2022 posted an issue in the GitHub repository housing the code for the iOS version of Firefox that includes a reference to GeckoView, a wrapper for Firefox’s Gecko rendering engine.

There are a lot of different ways this could play out. If third-party browser engines are allowed, will they be able to use just-in-time compilation for JavaScript — a technique that results in faster performance but exposes more exploitable bugs?

I also suspect, if it comes to pass that non-WebKit rendering engines are allowed on iOS, that it will be via an entitlement specifically for general-purpose web browsers like Chrome and Firefox. I would expect Apple to continue disallowing such engines for use in any and all apps — no Electron for iOS. I would also expect that browsers like Chrome and Firefox won’t be able to save web apps to the home screen as standalone web apps.

Tuesday, 7 February 2023