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Apple is working on bringing web-based notifications to iOS, addressing a long-time concern of developers of web-based apps who have been unable to send notifications to users on Apple mobile devices, severely limiting the user experience and effectiveness of apps made on the web.

safari-icon-blue-banner.jpeg

With the first betas of iOS and iPadOS 15.4 released last week, Apple added a "Push API" toggle in the Experimental settings page for Safari, as spotted and explained by developer Maximiliano Firtman. As noted by Maximiliano, while the toggle is visible, the API itself is not yet enabled, and Apple has yet to implement a UI prompt into Safari on iOS to ask users for permission to display web-based notifications.

Unlike on macOS where web-based notifications are common, only apps downloaded through Apple's App Store can send notifications on iOS. With the inclusion of the "Push API" toggle in iOS 15.4, Apple is seemingly laying the groundwork for bringing web-based notifications to its mobile devices.

Web-based applications are designed entirely on the web, accessible through any browser with a URL. Web-based apps are not new, but the Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit has brought the experience of web-based apps on iOS and iPadOS into the spotlight. A key cornerstone of Epic's argument against Apple's control of the App Store and iOS ecosystem is the lack of choices for users on where to download apps.

In a submission to the ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) in February of last year, Apple rebuffed Epic's claim that iOS users are limited in options for where to download apps. Specifically, Apple said that "the whole web is available to them," and iOS and iPadOS users have "unrestricted and uncontrolled access" to web-based apps.

"Web browsers are used not only as a distribution portal, but also as platforms themselves, hosting "progressive web applications" (PWAs) that eliminate the need to download a developer's app through the App Store (or other means) at all. PWAs are increasingly available for and through mobile-based browsers and devices, including on iOS," Apple said in a section of its submission titled "Distribution alternatives within the iOS ecosystem."

In a court filing dated May 2021, Epic specifically took issue with the limitations of WebKit, the framework on which all iOS and iPadOS browsers are based. Epic noted that web-based apps accessed through the browser lack access to APIs offered by native apps distributed through the App Store, such as PushKit, which enables notifications.

macos-web-based-notfications.png
Safari prompt on macOS for web-based notifications

In the same filing, Epic claimed that in testimony, Apple's former vice president of developer relations, Ron Okamoto, could "not name a single developer that withdrew an app from the App Store because the developer could substitute to distributing a web app."

By bringing PushKit to WebKit for iOS and iPadOS, Apple could be seeking to bolster its argument that web-based applications are an alternative to apps from the App Store. The Epic vs. Apple lawsuit concluded in September with U.S. District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruling that Apple must allow apps to link to external payment methods for in-app purchases. Epic wanted the court to force Apple to support third-party App Stores, but that didn't happen.

While Apple is seemingly laying the early groundwork for implementing PushKit into WebKit for iOS and iPadOS, it remains unclear when we could see the API go live. We've reached out to Apple for more information.

Apple is currently testing iOS and iPadOS 15.4, the largest update to iOS and iPadOS 15 since its launch last fall. The first beta of iOS 15.4 includes the ability to use Face ID while wearing a mask, Universal Control, improved support for ProMotion on iPhone 13 Pro models, and more.

Article Link: iOS 15.4 Beta Suggests Apple to Support Push Notifications From Web-Based Apps
 

Yoms

macrumors 6502
Jun 1, 2016
302
178
Unfortunately, this is not the only API that's missing to make a great PWA. There are other things you can access to when building a native app that you can't with a web-based app. But for some web-based app, current situation may be enough.

As for security, basically nothing's changed. The web-based app / PWA does not access to more things on your phone as the number of APIs increases. For example, here's how it works for GPS tracking: the app asks Safari for the GPS coordinates which then asks iOS through the dedicated API. So Safari always acts as an intermediate in the process between the app and the system. So it's as secured as Safari is.
 

PsykX

macrumors 68000
Sep 16, 2006
1,711
1,726
How is this rushing a feature? It's already been on Safari for Mac for almost 5 years.
Beat me to it.

I even saw on a website that it was 'new' in macOS 12.3 Beta. I've had it since I can't remember when, but clearly a few years because I've had time to move two times since then.
 

PsykX

macrumors 68000
Sep 16, 2006
1,711
1,726
Cool for those who like it.

But for me, it’s the less notifications the merrier.
Yeah, I can understand that. I'm obliged to do a cleanup every now and then.

The whole concept of "notifications" the way Steve Jobs introduced them was just magical, especially push. But it can be dangerous for mental health if you just let the authorizations accumulate.
 
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ian87w

macrumors 603
Feb 22, 2020
6,399
9,093
Indonesia
Bad idea. I hate this feature on any browsers, as pretty much all websites abuse this feature to bombard users with notifications. On all my phones, Android or iOS, I always disable the browser from being able to display notification. Even on my computers. Notifications have been abused so much that actual important notifications are no longer visible. Just like email. So many crap and junk that important emails are buried.
 

macar00n

macrumors 6502
Aug 6, 2021
337
1,017
Oh please, PLEASE, we NEED more notification features, MacOS and iOS are not enough of a notification clustercluck, we need every crappy website on the planet to be able to notify us too ?. Please make it so that if they want, users can be notified multiple times per second by anyone that thinks they have a CRITICALLY IMPORTANT notification for us ?. My ideal phone is one that I can't use because it is just one solid stream of notifications coming in one on top of the other, stacking to infinity so that I may have multiple hits of dopamine per second until I die of happiness ?. The attention span is dead - long live notifications! If satisfaction takes longer than one instant I will literally die
 

BWhaler

macrumors 68040
Jan 8, 2003
3,665
5,801
I understand why Apple would feel compelled to fifer this, but I would hate it as a user—every site on the web asking if they can send me notifications.

‘’I’d like a setting to turn off all notification requests, globally, from web sites. They have one for location tracking in the Mac—but I find it doesn’t actually work.
 

needsomecoffee

macrumors 6502
May 6, 2008
292
649
Seattle
Unfortunately, this is not the only API that's missing to make a great PWA. There are other things you can access to when building a native app that you can't with a web-based app. But for some web-based app, current situation may be enough.

As for security, basically nothing's changed. The web-based app / PWA does not access to more things on your phone as the number of APIs increases. For example, here's how it works for GPS tracking: the app asks Safari for the GPS coordinates which then asks iOS through the dedicated API. So Safari always acts as an intermediate in the process between the app and the system. So it's as secured as Safari is.
Apple's lack of support for PWAs in Webkit likely can only be addressed by Government's forcing Apple to allow/support other browsers. This is M$FT using Windows+IE all over again (modern version). Pretty sure the right changes are underway now though as US Senators have been "acknowledging the points Tim makes" when he spend 40+ minutes on the phone with each, then they vote to support opening up the App Store despite Tim's pointers.
 

needsomecoffee

macrumors 6502
May 6, 2008
292
649
Seattle
Fingers are crossed these web-based Apps notifications don’t make my device hotter.
PWAs are simply web pages which are supported by downloading the resources to your device. They are just web pages with a few additional browser features to support off-line use. So essentially the same as using the functionality/code of the web page in Safari. Actually less likely to misbehave because of this (versus a developer poorly using all the APIs available via XCode).
 

Hajj.david

macrumors member
May 17, 2021
34
102
Great another pop up joining the cookies and privacy dialogs making the web even worse than what it already is
I swear the EU whatever privacy law is the goddamn worse. Every stupid website I have to deal with popups and like 30-60 seconds of configuring settings. Worse is that it will ask me multiple times because many websites have a bunch of subsites with its own BS privacy and cookies crap.
 

I7guy

macrumors Penryn
Nov 30, 2013
29,379
17,782
Gotta be in it to win it
Apple's lack of support for PWAs in Webkit likely can only be addressed by Government's forcing Apple to allow/support other browsers. This is M$FT using Windows+IE all over again (modern version). Pretty sure the right changes are underway now though as US Senators have been "acknowledging the points Tim makes" when he spend 40+ minutes on the phone with each, then they vote to support opening up the App Store despite Tim's pointers.
That would be a bad idea as then zero day vulnerabilities, critical security flaws would be at the mercy of each browser engine. It is not Microsoft windows+IE all over again. Apple is not paying off anyone. Pretty sure this is going to die a quick death.
 
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