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Posts tagged with "safari"

Welcome to Weird

Today, Chance Miller reported for 9to5Mac that the progressive web app (PWA) issues iPhone users in the EU have been seeing throughout the iOS 17.4 beta cycle are indeed intentional, breaking changes. The evidence is new developer documentation that added a Q&A section dealing with web apps. As Chance explains:

One change in iOS 17.4 is that the iPhone now supports alternative browser engines in the EU. This allows companies to build browsers that don’t use Apple’s WebKit engine for the first time. Apple says that this change, required by the Digital Markets Act, is why it has been forced to remove Home Screen web apps support in the European Union.

The upshot of Apple’s answer to why PWAs no longer work in the EU is that it would be hard to implement the same thing for other browsers, few people use PWAs, and the Digital Markets Act requires browser feature parity, so they took the feature out of Safari. Each step in that logic may be true, but it doesn’t make the results any more palatable for those who depend on web apps, which have only grown in importance to users in recent years.

For anyone who was there when Steve Jobs declared web apps a ‘Sweet Solution’ when developers clamored for Apple to open up the iPhone’s OS to native apps, taking them away in the face of regulations that force Apple to open up to alternative browser engines carries a heavy dose of irony. It also illustrates that when the motivations behind software design are driven by lawyers and regulators, not market forces, things get weird. And as iOS 17.4 shows, EU-iOS is solidly in weird territory.

PWAs may not be a top 10 feature of Safari, but that’s at least partly the result of the company’s own decisions because it wasn’t until recently that PWAs became viable alternatives to some native apps. Web apps aren’t going anywhere, and choosing to eliminate PWAs from Safari instead of doing the work to extend them to all browsers runs counter to the open web and the momentum of history. I hope Apple reconsiders its decision.

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Understanding Apple’s Response to the DMA

Source: Apple.

Source: Apple.

What a week. When it began to look like Apple would announce how it planned to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), I expected small changes at the margins that wouldn’t significantly move the needle in the EU or anywhere else. Boy, I was wrong.

Instead, we got a far-reaching, complex response that touches aspects of iOS, system apps, the App Store. There’s a lot of ground to cover, but Federico and I have talked to Apple a couple of times each about what was announced and ask questions, so it’s time to dive and try to make sense of everything.

Before getting too deep into the weeds, it’s important to understand why Apple made its announcement last week and, whether you share it or not, the company’s perspective. That makes understanding the details of what was announced easier and will hopefully help you parse legitimate criticisms of Apple’s plans from hollow hot-takes.

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Apple Shares List of Alternate Browsers That Will Be Available to EU Users in iOS 17.4

One element of the changes coming to iOS in the European Union is that beginning with iOS 17.4, EU users will see a choice of browsers when they first launch Safari that can be set as the systemwide default browser. For each country, that list will contain the 12 most popular browsers from its App Store storefront displayed to the user in a random order.

As you can imagine, there is overlap among EU member countries, but there are plenty of differences, too. If you’re curious which browsers will be listed in your country, check out the lists for each of the 27 EU member countries after the break that Apple has told us will appear the first time Safari is launched in iOS 17.4.

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The Vision Pro’s Most Important App Is Safari

Interesting perspective by David Pierce, writing for The Verge, on how, for the time being, Vision Pro users may have to use Safari to access popular services more than they anticipated:

But what if you don’t need the App Store to reach Apple users anymore? All this corporate infighting has the potential to completely change the way we use our devices, starting with the Vision Pro. It’s not like you can’t use Spotify on the headset; it’s just that instead of tapping a Spotify app icon, you’ll have to go to Spotify.com. Same for YouTube, Netflix, and every other web app that opts not to build something native for the Vision Pro. And for gamers, whether you want to use Xbox Game Pass or just play Fortnite, you’ll also need a browser. Over the last decade or so, we’ve all stopped opening websites and started tapping app icons, but the age of the URL might be coming back.

If you believe the open web is a good thing, and that developers should spend more time on their web apps and less on their native ones, this is a big win for the future of the internet. (Disclosure: I believe all these things.) The problem is, it’s happening after nearly two decades of mobile platforms systematically downgrading and ignoring their browsing experience. You can create homescreen bookmarks, which are just shortcuts to web apps, but those web apps don’t have the same access to offline modes, cross-app collaboration, or some of your phone’s other built-in features. After all this time, you still can’t easily run browser extensions on mobile Safari or mobile Chrome. Apple also makes it maddeningly complicated just to stay logged in to the services you use on the web across different apps. Mobile platforms treat browsers like webpage viewers, not app platforms, and it shows.

As we saw when we surveyed the state of apps already submitted to the visionOS App Store, more companies than we expected have – for now – decided not to offer their apps on the Vision Pro, either in the form of native visionOS apps or iPad apps running in compatibility mode.

I think that “for now” is key here: if visionOS proves to be a successful platform in the long term (and early sales numbers for the Vision Pro seem encouraging), most companies won’t be able to afford ignoring it. And why would they? If the users are there, why shouldn’t they provide those users with a better app experience?

This idea is predicated upon the assumption that native apps still offer a superior app experience compared to their web counterparts. The tide has been turning over the past few years. Workflows that would have been unthinkable in a web browser until a few years ago (such as design and collaboration) can now live in a browser; the most popular AI service in the world is literally a website; the resurgence of browsers (with Arc arguably leading the space) proves that a new generation of users (who likely grew up with Chromebooks in school) doesn’t mind working inside a browser.

With this context in mind, I think Apple should continue improving Safari and extend its capabilities on visionOS. My understanding is that, in visionOS 1.0, Safari cannot save PWAs to the user’s Home Screen; I wouldn’t be surprised if that feature gets added before visionOS 2.0.

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macOS Sonoma: The MacStories Review

In one sense, the story of this year’s macOS update is that there is no story, but that’s not exactly right. Instead, it’s a bunch of stories. It’s the tail end of the realignment of macOS with Apple’s other OSes that began with macOS Catalina in 2019. However, Sonoma is also part of a work-at-home story accelerated by COVID-19. The OS is also linked to the story of visionOS, only part of which has been revealed. Sonoma is a bundle of narrative threads built on the foundation of past releases, adding up to a collection of updates that will be less disruptive for most Mac users than recent macOS updates. Instead, Sonoma is packed with a variety of useful new features that help draw it closer to iPadOS and iOS than ever before, design enhancements, and a few disappointing omissions.

The timing for a more modest macOS update is right. In recent years, Mac users have had to adjust to substantial redesigns of everything from their favorite system apps to the Finder’s windows and toolbars. The changes were inescapable and necessary to harmonize the Mac with Apple’s other products, but also disruptive for some long-time users.

Sonoma adds a vast collection of new wallpaper and screensaver options.

Sonoma adds a vast collection of new wallpaper and screensaver options.

With macOS Sonoma, the biggest design shifts seem to be behind us – at least for the time being. Interactive widgets on the desktop are a big change this year, but it’s not like macOS dumps a bunch of them on your desktop by default. If you never want to see a widget anywhere near your desktop, you don’t have to. Other than the subtle way the login screen has changed and the new screensavers and wallpapers that are available, the core macOS experience has barely changed.

Instead, this year’s update is primarily about refining and building upon the foundation of the past few years, coupled with a handful of more significant updates to system apps. So, while the marquee features and design changes may be less notable than in recent years, there is still a long list of new and refreshed items that touch nearly every aspect of the OS, so let’s dive in.

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iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma Expand Password Management and Access System-Wide

Passwords permeate our lives. With an ever-growing number of sites, services, and apps to log into, people need help generating, managing, and accessing them. There are excellent third-party apps that can help, but the reality is that most people aren’t going to download a third-party app, and even fewer are likely to pay for one. That’s why Apple’s work with passwords is so important.

However, what makes that work impressive is the lengths to which the company has gone to make good password practices easy for users. The password updates to iOS 17, iPadOS 17, and macOS Sonoma are fantastic examples, making it easier than ever to share passwords and for users to begin adopting passkeys, a superior method of authentication compared to traditional passwords.

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Safari Extension Noir Adds Theming and Deeper Keyboard Shortcut Support

Last year, we awarded Noir Best New App of 2021 as part of the MacStories Selects Awards. Jeffrey Kuiken’s Safari extension for the iPhone, iPad, and Mac, which can apply a custom dark mode to websites that don’t offer their own, is a fantastic example of an app that implements a new technology – the native Safari extensions introduced with iOS and iPadOS 15 and earlier on the Mac – in a way that is simple to use but also provides advanced customization for users who want that. Noir immediately became a MacStories favorite on launch, and it remains an app that I rely on every day.

The latest update to Noir takes the app’s original concept a step further with new theming options, theme sharing, and extensive keyboard shortcut support. It’s an excellent update that anyone who likes to tweak the colors used in their apps will appreciate. Let’s take a closer look.

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Exporting Links from Safari Reading List via Shortcuts for Mac

Reading List Exporter.

Reading List Exporter.

A few weeks ago in the second lesson of the Automation Academy for Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members, I wrote about how I’ve been using Reminders as a read-later app in addition to traditional task management. The full details are in the story, but to sum up: using a combination of shortcuts based on Apple’s native actions, I can use Reminders to choose between long and short stories whenever I’m in the mood to read something. I love this setup, and I’ve been using it for nearly three months now.

Earlier this week, however, I realized I still hadn’t re-imported old articles from Safari Reading List – my previous read-later tool – into Reminders. That immediately posed an interesting challenge. Sure, I could manually re-save each article from Safari Reading List to Reminders, but that sounded like a chore. Other read-later apps such as Reeder and GoodLinks have long offered Shortcuts actions to fetch links from their databases and process them in Shortcuts however you see fit; Reading List, like other Apple apps, doesn’t support any actions to get the URLs you previously saved. And that’s when I had an idea.

Now that it’s available on macOS, Shortcuts can get access to application support files that are kept private and hidden from users on iOS and iPadOS. More specifically, I remembered that Safari for Mac has long stored its bookmarks and Reading List items in a file called Bookmarks.plist, which folks have been able to read via AppleScript for years. Under the hood, a .plist file is nothing but a fancy dictionary, and we know that Shortcuts has excellent support for parsing dictionaries and extracting data from them.

The plan was simple, and I knew what to do.

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Apple Releases iOS and iPadOS 15.1 with SharePlay, Safari for iPad Fixes, Shortcuts Improvements, and More

Screen sharing in FaceTime with SharePlay (left) and the updated Safari for iPad.

Screen sharing in FaceTime with SharePlay (left) and the updated Safari for iPad.

Alongside macOS Monterey, Apple today released iOS and iPadOS 15.1 – the first major updates to the operating systems introduced last month. Don’t expect a large collection of changes from this release, though: 15.1 mostly focuses on enabling SharePlay (which was announced at WWDC, then postponed to a later release a few months ago), rolling Safari back to a reasonable design, and bringing a few tweaks for the Camera app and spatial audio. Let’s take a look.

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