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

View more comments

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.

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 ?

Northgrove said,
"The complete lack of evidence is the surest sign that the conspiracy is working."

The major flaw here is that -- assuming this is intentional and not a bug -- this means that Apple willingly throws out a major feature of iOS 4.3 that they even advertised on their home page, in order to push their own apps. That Apple willingly let their competitors gain on Safari Mobile's performance and close the gap despite spending months of man hours of improving their JavaScript engine.

And that truly sounds like crazy-talk. IF Apple didn't want web apps to be of high-performance, they wouldn't have improved Safari Mobile. At all. They would have pulled an IE 6 on it and let it decay.

There's a huge hole in this conspiracy.

I find a far more plausible explanation to be that there were some sort of issue in the new JavaScript engine when the browser would be launched like this, that they couldn't fix in time for release. Be wary of attributing incompetence with malice. It's more often than not a mistake to do.

See Mr Northgrove, the problem is.....Apple will not be doing anything about this. If it is a javascript issue....it should work just fine no matter how the browser is launched. More importantly, if you don't fix a bug, which in turn benefits you, ofcourse you are doing it intentionally.

I mean who can argue that this issue, bug or not or whatever the reason, is benefiting Apple? No one can deny that.

People are debating if Apple is doing this intentionally or not. I mean, we are talking about Apple people. Apple has history of wanting complete control. Only blind Apple fanboys can't see that.

So there is every reason to suspect Apple here. I am not saying they are definately doing it on purpose as I don't have a proof. But based on available information, it is something Apple can be and should be accused of.

So, Apple, tell us about this and come clean.

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.

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.

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

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.

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....

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.

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).

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.

Commenting is disabled on this article.