The CMA, the UK’s regulator of business competition and markets, what the USA calls “antitrust”, is conducting a study into mobile platforms and the mobile ecosystem. You may recall that I and others presented to the CMA in September 2021 about Apple’s browser ban. They have invited public comments, and they honestly are eager to hear from people: not solely big players with big legal submissions, but real web developers. But the time is nigh: they need to hear from you by 5pm UK time today, Monday 7th February 2022.
Bruce Lawson, who I presented with, has summarised the CMA’s interim report. What’s important for our perspectives today is how they feel about mobile browsers. In particular, they call out how on Apple’s iOS devices, there is only one browser: Safari. While other browser names do exist — Chrome, Firefox, and the like — they are all Safari dressed up in different clothes. It’s been surprising how many developers didn’t realise this: check out the Twitter hashtag #AppleBrowserBan for more on that. So the CMA are looking for feedback and comments from anyone in the UK or who does any business in the UK, on how you feel about the mobile ecosystem of apps and browsers in general, and how you feel about the browser landscape specifically. Did you decide to use the web, or not use the web, on mobile devices in a way that felt like you had no choice? Do you feel like web apps are a match for native apps or not?
If you’re a web developer, you may have already been part of, or encountered, some parts of this discussion on social media already. And that may mean that you’re a bit tired of it, because it can be quite bad-tempered in places, and because there’s an awful lot of disingenuous argument. People on or closely allied with browser vendors have a very bad habit of wholly ignoring problems in their own camp and lauding problems in others: this is not of course specific to browser developers (everybody does this in arguments!) but it’s pretty annoying. Chrome defenders generally divert the conversation away from privacy, data collection, and Google’s desire to inhale all your data from everywhere: I’ve asked in the past about Chrome integrating with the platform it’s on and have been unembarrassedly told that “Chrome is the platform”, which I’m sure sounds great if you’re Google and maybe not for everyone else. And Safari developers tend to pretend to be deaf when asked questions they don’t like, and then complain that they get no engagement after haughtily refusing any that isn’t on their own terms. Yes, this is all very irritating, I agree with you. But here’s the thing: you do not have to take a side. This does not have to be tribal. The CMA want your opinions by the end of today, and you don’t have to feel like you’re striking a blow in the browser wars or a blow for privacy or a blow against native by doing so. The thing that every survey and every poll always flags is that they only hear from people with an axe to grind. You don’t have to feel like you’re defending one side or another to have an opinion on how you think that mobile platforms treat the web, and how you think they could do that differently. Be on the side of the web: that’s the right side to be on, because there’s no other side. (Nobody claims to be against the web — nobody with any sense or knowledge of history, anyway — so you know it’s a good place to be.)
Bruce has very excellently provided some sample responses to the CMA along with guidance about points you may want to cover or include, and you should definitely read that. But get your skates on: responses have to be in today.
Send email to [email protected]. And do post your response publicly if you can, so others can see it, learn from it, and see that you’ve done it.