Apple's closed ecosystem appears to be slowly opening up, at least in the EU. On January 25, 2024, major tech companies revealed changes to their App Store and business models in light of new requirements under the Digital Markets Act (DMA), which is scheduled to come into force in March.
However, Apple's announcement was controversial. Many critics, including Meta founder Mark Zuckerberg and music app giant Spotify, deemed this a farce. According to VPN service provider Proton VPN, “Apple is looking to profit from DMA.” Reflecting such concerns, web browser Mozilla sees this as “another example of Apple putting up barriers to prevent true browser competition on her iOS.”
Opera developers are more optimistic about Apple's new iOS browser rules and decided to celebrate the release of their AI-powered browser to replace Safari. To understand what this means for users in Europe and beyond, we spoke to Jona Bolin, his manager of product for the Opera browser for iOS.
Opportunity to gain more control
“I think it's great that they change the regulations,” Bolin told me. “For us, this is an opportunity to achieve a high degree of control.”
He went on to explain that while distribution is an important factor for other developers, the fact that the Opera browser is a free service means it is less affected by new fees and payment requirements.
“You would still have to develop two different apps,” Bolin said, adding that the challenge would instead be to encourage users to migrate from one app to another.
This is because Apple is opening up third-party web browser engines for the first time (previously iOS only allowed Safari's WebKit engine), and the provider only allowed it for EU apps. This ultimately means that the browser developer has twice as much work to do as he does.
Despite this burden, Bolin expects Apple's changes will make it easier for his team to implement the same level of functionality across Opera's suite of apps. “You'll have advanced security out of the box and better processes that you can build on top of,” he added.
A new browser for iOS is here! The new AI-centric Opera One browser is built on a proprietary engine and celebrates the opening of iOS to alternative browser engines. pic.twitter.com/GQdohWmp5WJanuary 26, 2024
The Norwegian browser has already announced plans to bring its AI-centric browser Opera One to iOS, giving users a better AI-powered alternative to Safari. This is expected to be released in the coming months.
Outside the EU, both the UK and the US have voted on legislation that aligns with the DMA's efforts to ensure fair competition within technology markets and protect people's digital rights.
Bolin hopes the EU's new DMA requirements are just the first step in “putting pressure” on big tech companies to open up their ecosystems to everyone.
“I think more countries need to step up, and then perhaps Apple will change, and we believe that too.” [the DMA] It could be a good test run, and maybe Apple will find it working on their side as well. We hope to see it introduced in other markets in the future, and we believe it will eventually happen. ”