The EU DMA, iOS, PWAs, other acronyms and possibly the one and only very minor and probably temporary Brexit benefit.

Apple's response to the latest EU digital markets legislation could be pivotal for the future of the digital industry and how we all use apps.

February 21, 2024

A person looks to a colourful night sky symbolising Progressive Web Apps in the context of Apple's response to the EU digital markets legislation.

OK, I’ll get the B-word out of the way early… for anyone employing Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) in the UK, it seems that finally there may be one small benefit due to the UK no longer being part of the EU and therefore not subject to the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA).

At least for the time-being, it seems, from the information to hand since Apple’s surprise announcement late last week, that Progressive Web Apps will continue to function and be available for download onto the devices of UK iOS users when Apple removes support for this on the devices of EU-based users under its forthcoming iOS 17.4 release.

It’s a small benefit, it may not last forever and the wider connotations of not being part of the DMA may turn out to be more negative than positive, but at least for those running Progressive Web Apps in the UK right now, there’s some room to breathe.

From the DMA to PWAs

So, let’s establish some definitions.

EU DMA – The European Union Digital Markets Act is a piece of legislation which aims to bring fair competition to digital marketplaces and prevent anti-competitive practices by large online platforms. Essentially, the DMA is aiming to ensure that, in this context, users of digital devices are not limited to a single app store from which they can purchase apps, digital content and in-app purchases and that the industry gatekeepers are compelled to allow apps to use third-party browser engines to power apps.

PWA – Progressive Web Apps are applications delivered via the web, built using common web technologies including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript and which are intended to work on any platform that uses a standards-compliant browser, including both desktop and mobile devices. Crucially, these apps can be ‘installed’ onto a user’s device directly, without the need for submission to an app store. PWAs can also utilise many of the functions of the device upon which they are installed such as notifications, camera, gyroscope, ID systems (fingerprint/face recognition) etc. From a user perspective, these apps can be indistinguishable from a native (app-store downloaded and installed) app, but from a business point of view, they can be particularly advantageous as they typically require less resource investment than native mobile apps and do not incur app store fees which are typically 30% of any purchase.

The Apple Issue

PWAs, despite appearances, are never truly ‘installed’ on a device. Sure, there’s an icon on the home screen, native device functions are utilised and it looks like any other full-screen app if well designed. However, under the bonnet, on iOS devices PWAs utilise Apple’s ‘WebKit’ browser engine to display their content full screen and keep up the native app appearance.

However, the DMA requires Apple to allow PWA developers to utilise alternative web browser engines, bypassing WebKit. Apple contends that this could open-up user devices to malicious web apps gaining access to iOS user devices on the basis that they would have no control over the security of alternative browser engines. This being the case Apple has opted to remove support for Progressive Web Apps entirely in the EU.

An Apple Statement reads:

“Addressing the complex security and privacy concerns associated with web apps using alternative browser engines would require building an entirely new integration architecture that does not currently exist in iOS and was not practical to undertake given the other demands of the DMA and the very low user adoption of Home Screen web apps,” The statement continues “And so, to comply with the DMA’s requirements, we had to remove the Home Screen web apps feature in the EU.”

So what next for Progressive Web Apps in the EU?

In the latest beta version of iOS 17.4 – beta 2, EU-based developers have claimed that certain Progressive Web Apps have continued to operate, but that some native features such as push notifications have stopped working. However, with last week’s announcement from Apple it is clear that in the EU, compliance and support for PWAs will be removed entirely.

It is understood that PWAs will still function from within the Safari browser, but these will not be installable on the home screen, will not operate in full screen and some native functionality will not be available to them.

The consequences for businesses operating PWAs in the EU are severe and the options limited. Businesses will have to either accept that iOS users will no longer have access to their apps which may not be commercially viable, revert to browser-based interactions only, losing app-like functionality and access to native functions or invest in the development of native apps to replace PWAs. At Bulb Studios we have an optimised option for native development, but more on this later.


Apple has a consistent and long-standing stance on user security and privacy when it comes to removing restrictions within its operating systems. However, critics argue that this response masks a deeper concern about losing control over its lucrative App Store model and by effectively killing PWAs, they are removing one more competitor from their platform and claiming their hand was forced in the process.

Irrespective of the truth, the announcement is decisive for PWAs on iOS in the EU and change is coming soon.

The Future

The digital market regulation landscape is poised for change. The DMA is unlikely to be the first and last regulation of this kind in this increasingly important global market – the eyes of the world will be on this developing situation and its consequences.

So whilst in the UK we can currently bask in our PWA-permissive environment, all PWA developers and operators need to keep their eyes peeled and have contingency plans in-place. If we’ve learned anything from Brexit, it’s that we all need a plan.

If I were to speculate, I’d suggest that the legislation may indirectly strengthen native apps over PWAs globally. If Apple is forced to open up to third-party app stores or side-loading, and its control over its ecosystem further loosens, the uniformity and optimisation that benefited PWAs might diminish. Developers therefore could decide to prioritise native app development over the now non-globally-available PWAs. Why develop an app that is effectively outlawed in the EU, even if that is not its primary market?

If this also has a knock-on effect on consumer confidence in third-party app stores and PWAs, then this may see first-party app stores being the only viable option for developers.

It seems to me that sadly, the writing is on the wall.

The sweet-spot

The EU DMA Act and Apple’s response are clearly pivotal in digital market regulation. While it’s still unclear how these changes will fully play out, one thing is certain; the tech landscape is evolving and every user, developer and tech entrepreneur will need to adapt. The fate of Progressive Web Apps is undoubtedly a key indicator of the future direction of app development and digital market regulation.

However, from experience, it’s not a simple choice of ‘expensive’ native development or ‘unsupported’ PWA development, there is another way. At Bulb Studios, we believe in a flexible approach to app development which provides the best of both worlds to our clients.

We leverage the same JavaScript-based web technologies as employed in PWAs to develop fully-featured native apps. This results in investment and resource efficient apps which can be deployed to any app store and which makes web-based counterparts a viable option too – covering all platforms and future-proofing against unforeseen industry developments.

So regardless of where the EU, other regions, Apple, Google and other tech players go next, we are able to offer robust, reliable and financially viable digital solutions that work cross-platform, and simultaneously meet with business requirements and user needs.


If you’d like to chat Apps, PWAs and digital legislation agendas or to understand how our approach to app development might benefit your business, drop us a line to or book a no obligation chat here:

Image Credit: Greg Rakozy on Unsplash