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Telegram criticizes Apple for 'intentionally crippling' web app features on iOS

Native code or nothing thanks to Safari's approach to web apps

A week after confirming plans for Telegram Premium, the messaging platform's CEO, Pavel Durov, is again criticizing Apple's approach to its Safari browser for stifling the efforts of web developers.

Durov would very much like his web-based messaging platform, Telegram Web, to be delivered as a web app rather than native, but is prevented from offering users a full-fat experience on Apple's mobile devices due to limitations in the iOS Safari browser.

There's no option for web developers on Apple's iPhone and iPad to use anything but Safari, and features taken for granted on other platforms have yet to make it to iOS.

"We suspect that Apple may be intentionally crippling its web apps," claimed Durov, "to force its users to download more native apps where Apple is able to charge its 30 percent commission."

At the end of last week the UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said it would be taking a close look at Apple and Google's market power with respect to mobile browsers. Enforcement action is a potential outcome, depending on the findings of the investigation.

In April, Durov published a list of limitations in Safari and, while some (such as Push Notifications) look set to be addressed in the upcoming IOS 16, others remain. The result is that a native app is needed, effectively pushing developers toward Apple's store and its fees and policies.

Readers might point out that Durov has perhaps a particular interest in being able to do more through Safari because of last week's announcement of the Premium version of Telegram, which would require a paid subscription, alongside the free tier. Apple will want its cut. A web app could, in theory, bypass that.

However, thanks to Apple's insistence that its Webkit browser engine lurk behind the scenes regardless of browser, getting close to native functionality remains unattainable for now.

Commending the efforts of the regulators, Durov noted that: "It's sad that, more than 10 years after Steve Job's death, a company that once revolutionized mobile web turned into its most significant roadblock."

We have asked Apple for comment. ®

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