As has been mentioned here before the UK regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, are conducting an investigation into mobile phone software ecosystems, and they recently published the results of that investigation in the mobile ecosystems market study. They’re also focusing in on two particular areas of concern: competition among mobile browsers, and in cloud gaming services. This is from their consultation document:
Mobile browsers are a key gateway for users and online content providers to access and distribute content and services over the internet. Both Apple and Google have very high shares of supply in mobile browsers, and their positions in mobile browser engines are even stronger. Our market study found the competitive constraints faced by Apple and Google from other mobile browsers and browser engines, as well as from desktop browsers and native apps, to be weak, and that there are significant barriers to competition. One of the key barriers to competition in mobile browser engines appears to be Apple’s requirement that other browsers on its iOS operating system use Apple’s WebKit browser engine. In addition, web compatibility limits browser engine competition on devices that use the Android operating system (where Google allows browser engine choice). These barriers also constitute a barrier to competition in mobile browsers, as they limit the extent of differentiation between browsers (given the importance of browser engines to browser functionality).
They go on to suggest things they could potentially do about it:
A non-exhaustive list of potential remedies that a market investigation could consider includes:
- removing Apple’s restrictions on competing browser engines on iOS devices;
- mandating access to certain functionality for browsers (including supporting web apps);
- requiring Apple and Google to provide equal access to functionality through APIs for rival browsers;
- requirements that make it more straightforward for users to change the default browser within their device settings;
- choice screens to overcome the distortive effects of pre-installation; and
- requiring Apple to remove its App Store restrictions on cloud gaming services.
But, importantly, they want to know what you think. I’ve now been part of direct and detailed discussions with the CMA a couple of times as part of OWA, and I’m pretty impressed with them as a group; they’re engaged and interested in the issues here, and knowledgeable. We’re not having to educate them in what the web is. The UK’s potential digital future is not all good (and some of the UK’s digital future looks like it could be rather bad indeed!) but the CMA’s work is a bright spot, and it’s important that we support the smart people in tech government, lest we get the other sort.
So, please, take a little time to write down what you think about all this. The CMA are governmental: they have plenty of access to windy bloviations about the philosophy of tech, or speculation about what might happen from “influencers”. What’s important, what they need, is real comments from real people actually affected by all this stuff in some way, either positively or negatively. Tell they whether you think they’ve got it right or wrong; what you think the remedies should be; which problems you’ve run into and how they affected your projects or your business. Earlier in this process we put out calls for people to send in their thoughts and many of you responded, and that was really helpful! We can do more this time, when it’s about browsers and the Web directly, I hope.
If you feel as I do then you may find OWA’s response to the CMA’s interim report to be useful reading, and also the whole OWA twitter thread on this, but the most important thing is that you send in your thoughts in your own words. Maybe what you think is that everything is great as it is! It’s still worth speaking up. It is only a good thing if the CMA have more views from actual people on this, regardless of what those views are. These actions that the CMA could take here could make a big difference to how competition on the Web proceeds, and I imagine everyone who builds for the web has thoughts on what they want to happen there. Also there will be thoughts on what the web should be from quite a few people who use the web, which is to say: everybody. And everybody should put their thoughts in.
So here’s the quick guide:
- You only have until July 22nd
- Read [Mobile browsers and cloud gaming](https://www.gov.uk/cma-cases/mobile-browsers-and-cloud-gaming) from the CMA
- Decide for yourself:
- How these issues have personally affected you or your business
- How you think changes could affect the industry and consumers
- What interventions you think are necessary
- Email your response to firstname.lastname@example.org
Go to it. You have a month. It’s a nice sunny day in the UK… why not read the report over lunchtime and then have a think?