Apple accused of deliberately crippling web apps

Developers have accused Apple of pushing them to use the App Store by making web apps appear slower on iOS devices.

According to The Register, web apps launched directly from the home screen are being disadvantaged through the use of an older JavaScript engine. Web apps are created using JavaScript and HTML and can be run via a shortcut on the home screen or by browsing to a site in Safari. Developers say the issue only applies to apps run from the home screen.

Citing ''various tests'', The Register claimed that web apps ran between two and two-and-a-half times slower when launched from the home screen into ''full-screen mode'' as compared to browsing to the app in Safari.

Developer say that's because web apps are not using the Nitro JavaScript engine added to Safari in iOS 4.3. Apple has claimed Nitro runs JavaScript up to twice as fast as in iOS 4.2.

Web apps run from the home screen are apparently also unable to tap into caching systems that allow them run in offline mode as well as more advanced rendering modes. Quoting an ''unnamed developer'', the Register claimed that Apple's Mobile Safari team is well aware of the issue, but has indicated nothing will be done about it. The site did admit that ''Apple isn't degrading the speed of home screen web apps. It's boosting the speed of web apps in the browser'' but said there is essentially no difference between the two for the end user.

Various tech blogs have suggested speed restrictions on full-screen web apps could be a deliberate ploy on Apple's part to force developers inside the walled garden of the App Store. Web apps, they argue, are almost entirely outside Apple's control and do not need to go through the usual app approval processes.

With Apple remaining silent on the issue, there's no way to know the truth, but mobile programming author Maximiliano Firtman, who carried out The Register's tests, said he doesn't believe Apple is deliberately crippling web apps.

''I don’t believe this is a deliberate attempt from Apple. I can’t be 100% sure because I don’t work at Apple, but I’m not seeing any excuse to do that. I believe it’s more a “missing feature”, a security problem, an App Store Rules problem, or maybe a bug,'' he wrote on his blog.

Image Credit: cubiq.org

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Report: Piracy the product of 'global pricing'

Next Story

Netflix gets original programming, buys David Fincher television series

37 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Ah, boo fricken hooo.

People are still gobbling these devices up regardless of quality.

I say the customer base gets what they deserve.
Developers too.

dotf said,
Ah, boo fricken hooo.

People are still gobbling these devices up regardless of quality.

I say the customer base gets what they deserve.
Developers too.


+1

They can't even program a simple DLST change. As long as it is shiny though, I guess that's what is important.

shakey said,

They can't even program a simple DLST change. As long as it is shiny though, I guess that's what is important.

It still seems odd to me that the DLST bug only seems to affect some people and not others.

roadwarrior said,

It still seems odd to me that the DLST bug only seems to affect some people and not others.

I agree. It didn't affect me at all, at a time when I really needed it. My meeting requests would have been off if that were the case.

If it is a bug...then Apple will/should fix it. if it is something they did on purpose, then probably no fix for it. Just have to wait to see if/when Apple responds

techbeck said,
If it is a bug...then Apple will/should fix it. if it is something they did on purpose, then probably no fix for it. Just have to wait to see if/when Apple responds

I don't think its a bug... they introduced the nitro javascript engine to the Safari App but not the underlying API that other apps currently use. Before 4.3, I'd say that the mobile safari and safari instances in other apps performed well. Its more like, 4.3 went out the door before they were done (I hope..). I hope it wasn't intentional. Apple has done some low things before, but this is something that hurts the platform as a whole (EVEN the developers that submit apps to the app store).

Isn't it just that they haven't implemented the new webkit to "web apps", if so, this new going around is completely useless and stupid.

Lucas said,
Isn't it just that they haven't implemented the new webkit to "web apps", if so, this new going around is completely useless and stupid.

As much as I agree with your sentiment, maybe the negative press will kick Apple into fixing the problem sooner rather than later. It may be stupid, but perhaps not completely useless.

I've noticed that embedded mobile Safari in other apps (Twitter and Pulse for instance) do perform slower than mobile Safari does. Wonder if it is related....

Apple created and used a "standard" API for connect to Internet and everybody can use this API.
Then later, Apple created a new API but only they and their friends can use it, then rest is forced to use the old API.

Typical of Apple.

Jumped the bandwagon too early eh neowin?
"Right now, the theory about why Nitro is not on UIWebView is because of a security and kernel problem. Here you will find more [url="http://news.ycombinator.com/it...8028"]Information[/url]. Nitro is a JIT (just in time) compiler, and that can lead to security issues (JavaScript code that could potentially execute non-secure native code) and there are some problems with memory management also for JIT to work. "
http://www.mobilexweb.com/blog/apple-phonegap-html5-nitro

The guy who did the tests says that he doesn't think it's deliberate. Yet here we are again looking at another blown out of proportion news piece.

speedstr3789 said,
The guy who did the tests says that he doesn't think it's deliberate. Yet here we are again looking at another blown out of proportion news piece.

Of course we are. It's from The Reg. And being reported here as if it were fact, just to get hits. Which of course is why The Reg wrote the article in the first place.

roadwarrior said,

Of course we are. It's from The Reg. And being reported here as if it were fact, just to get hits. Which of course is why The Reg wrote the article in the first place.

The Reg even said it may be a bug, OR something Apple did on purpose. The reg may be funny spins on articles and such...but doesnt make what they post any less accurate. Its not The Onion of Fox News.

Sometimes news on the internet is painful to read, i'd be embarrassed to write a story like this with no solid evidence, it could be a bug.

Your coding it wrong?

Maybe it is just a case of the JavaScript engine cannot be used outside the safari browser without a massive re-write of the phones iOS ?

i think people should read the entire article ... it actually affects native apps that use the UIWebView API aswell ... so this is hardly apple trying to push developers to cocoa touch ...

xfodder said,
i think people should read the entire article ... it actually affects native apps that use the UIWebView API aswell ... so this is hardly apple trying to push developers to cocoa touch ...

It seems that Apple didn't get around to updating this API and that is probably the problem. I suspected this on my iPad when using Pulse to sift through the news. The embedded Safari felt slower than if I opened Safari (since the 4.3 update). People need to just relax and wait for the next update.

So basically the situation on iOS 4.2.x was:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from within the browser (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X

Now the situation is:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X * 2.5

The conspiracy theory proposed is that Apple is attempting to have developers take their free web apps (on which they make 0 profit) and convert them to free iPhone applications (on which they would make 0 profit) by having applications launched form the home screen apparently use a different webkit view. This is idea is confirmed by an anonymous source says "apple said they plan to screw us all by not fixing it".

I think a reasonable explanation is that this is a bug but The Register realizes they'll get more traffic and link backs by framing it as some vast conspiracy. Given that the issue is mitigated by removing a meta element and that they're actively seeking to improve the speed of web applications that seems to fit reality a little better than a vast conspiracy of inaction.

Heck it may even be an intentional switch to compensate for web-applications that rely on buggy or altered behavior in the older webkit. Apple has never been one to sacrifice progress for backward compatibility but even "apple software has bugs that they didn't want to patch and risk breaking applications" seems like a better explanation than the one being proposed.

evn. said,
So basically the situation on iOS 4.2.x was:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from within the browser (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X

Now the situation is:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X * 2.5

The conspiracy theory proposed is that Apple is attempting to have developers take their free web apps (on which they make 0 profit) and convert them to free iPhone applications (on which they would make 0 profit) by having applications launched form the home screen apparently use a different webkit view. This is idea is confirmed by an anonymous source says "apple said they plan to screw us all by not fixing it".

I think a reasonable explanation is that this is a bug but The Register realizes they'll get more traffic and link backs by framing it as some vast conspiracy. Given that the issue is mitigated by removing a meta element and that they're actively seeking to improve the speed of web applications that seems to fit reality a little better than a vast conspiracy of inaction.

Heck it may even be an intentional switch to compensate for web-applications that rely on buggy or altered behavior in the older webkit. Apple has never been one to sacrifice progress for backward compatibility but even "apple software has bugs that they didn't want to patch and risk breaking applications" seems like a better explanation than the one being proposed.

+1 It's a bug.

evn. said,
So basically the situation on iOS 4.2.x was:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from within the browser (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X

Now the situation is:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X * 2.5

The conspiracy theory proposed is that Apple is attempting to have developers take their free web apps (on which they make 0 profit) and convert them to free iPhone applications (on which they would make 0 profit) by having applications launched form the home screen apparently use a different webkit view. This is idea is confirmed by an anonymous source says "apple said they plan to screw us all by not fixing it".

I think a reasonable explanation is that this is a bug but The Register realizes they'll get more traffic and link backs by framing it as some vast conspiracy. Given that the issue is mitigated by removing a meta element and that they're actively seeking to improve the speed of web applications that seems to fit reality a little better than a vast conspiracy of inaction.

Heck it may even be an intentional switch to compensate for web-applications that rely on buggy or altered behavior in the older webkit. Apple has never been one to sacrifice progress for backward compatibility but even "apple software has bugs that they didn't want to patch and risk breaking applications" seems like a better explanation than the one being proposed.


yeah but free apps would still make 100$ per year for Apple and maybe push for more paid apps.
Although I agree with you it doesn't look like something they did on purpose.

evn. said,
So basically the situation on iOS 4.2.x was:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from within the browser (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X

Now the situation is:
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X
• web applications launched from the home screen (with a meta tag to hide the browser chrome) ran at speed X * 2.5

The conspiracy theory proposed is that Apple is attempting to have developers take their free web apps (on which they make 0 profit) and convert them to free iPhone applications (on which they would make 0 profit) by having applications launched form the home screen apparently use a different webkit view. This is idea is confirmed by an anonymous source says "apple said they plan to screw us all by not fixing it".

I think a reasonable explanation is that this is a bug but The Register realizes they'll get more traffic and link backs by framing it as some vast conspiracy. Given that the issue is mitigated by removing a meta element and that they're actively seeking to improve the speed of web applications that seems to fit reality a little better than a vast conspiracy of inaction.

Heck it may even be an intentional switch to compensate for web-applications that rely on buggy or altered behavior in the older webkit. Apple has never been one to sacrifice progress for backward compatibility but even "apple software has bugs that they didn't want to patch and risk breaking applications" seems like a better explanation than the one being proposed.

The point you are missing is that price isn't the issue, but the fact that Apple can't level the same degree of megalomaniacal control at web apps that they can in the app store.

Brian Miller said,
Naughty, naughty Apple.

Microsoft deliberately cripples its different editions of Windows as well to force people to buy the most expensive one to operate properly.

Foub said,

Microsoft deliberately cripples its different editions of Windows as well to force people to buy the most expensive one to operate properly.

Can you give me some links to the news source that says MS cripples it's versions. (no sarcasm, if this is real I'd like to know.)

Thanks

Foub said,

Microsoft deliberately cripples its different editions of Windows as well to force people to buy the most expensive one to operate properly.

Microsoft has its business originated features disabled on home editions but that is well documented and does not prevent the home editions from "operating properly." Sure, I wish Remote Desktop was supported on home editions but other than that I have no complaints. It wouldn't surprise me if Apple does start to cripple the web browser on their devices, its very clear they are more interested in maintaining their app store revenue source than making the device as powerful and flexible as possible.

However, before judgment is passed keep in mind that the Register is a rag with no interrogatory whatsoever. Lets wait until more technical and trustworthy folks verify this. Even if it is true it is possible that it is a bug Apple will fix. I tend to be skeptical when it comes to Apple, but it is important to stay fair.

XP Home/Pro
Vista Home Basic/ Home Premium/ Buisness / Ultimate
Same with 7
The editions are the same except domain access, Group Policy, Aero Theme, ect, ect. The Key just unlocks those parts, in the begining of Vista / 7 there was a hack where you could turn Home Basic into Ultimate


jameswjrose said,

Can you give me some links to the news source that says MS cripples it's versions. (no sarcasm, if this is real I'd like to know.)
Thanks

Hell-In-A-Handbasket said,
XP Home/Pro
Vista Home Basic/ Home Premium/ Buisness / Ultimate
Same with 7
The editions are the same except domain access, Group Policy, Aero Theme, ect, ect. The Key just unlocks those parts, in the begining of Vista / 7 there was a hack where you could turn Home Basic into Ultimate

That is removing features, not crippling. Whereas the article is talking about the issue that non-App Store apps are using an older engine and therefore degrading performance. *I* would think that "performance" would be a different issue than "feature". I use quotes as a way of identifying phrase, not sarcasm. Wouldn't this be the case?

Hell-In-A-Handbasket said,
XP Home/Pro
Vista Home Basic/ Home Premium/ Buisness / Ultimate
Same with 7
The editions are the same except domain access, Group Policy, Aero Theme, ect, ect. The Key just unlocks those parts, in the begining of Vista / 7 there was a hack where you could turn Home Basic into Ultimate

You pay for the amount you use, what average day user needs all the proffesional parts of an OS? and rather for paying the full price for an OS with features of which half arent ever used. Or pay a part of the price for the features you use.