Apple backs off killing the Whisthub app

As promised in the blog post about Apple killing the Whisthub app, I would come back with a new blog post if there was more information. This has happened sooner than I expected, but luckily it's good news! Apple has reverted their decision to remove PWA functionality, and hence the Whisthub app will keep on working on iOS. Again, if you're not using Whisthub on an iPhone, you don't have to worry about anything and can safely skip this post.

If you're not really interested in what happened behind the scenes between when Apple announced they would kill PWAs and their decision to revert this, then you can skip this blog post and just remember that nothing will change compared to how you use Whisthub today. Push notifications will keep on working, and Whisthub will still be able to run fullscreen. If you want to know more about what happened, then read on!

About one month ago, around the 3rd of February, rumor had it that Apple was disabling functionality for Progressive Web Apps - PWAs in short - in the upcoming release of iOS 17.4. If you downloaded the beta version of iOS 17.4, then PWAs - such as Whisthub - no longer worked, and just opened in a browser window and no longer fullscreen. Push notifications were gone too.

While this could have been a bug, developers were immediately suspicious that Apple might have disabled them intentionally under the false pretense that it was required to comply with the upcoming Digital Markets Act. The reasons why Apple doesn't really like PWAs and has always been hesitant to fully support them are explained in this blog post, but the takeaway is that PWAs are a threat to Apple's lucrative App Store model. PWAs allow developers - such as Whisthub - to avoid having to create a native app and to avoid the App Store's infamous 30% tax. This is why you don't find Whisthub in the App Store, but you have to install it in a somewhat funky way.

It didn't help that Apple did not communicate at all, and on February 16, it was made official that Apple would kill PWAs in iOS 17.4. This was a douchebag move, especially given the extremly short notice. Luckily the Open Web Advocacy immediately started to fight back, and they got into contact with the European Union. They also wrote an open letter directed to Apple, which Whisthub had signed. As a result, the EU started an investigation to this decision, which fueled hope that the killing of PWAs could still be reverted.

And then on March 1 came the news that Apple has reverted their decision to remove PWA support in iOS 17.4. While Apple initially lied that this change "would affect only a small number of users", it turns out that the backlash was bigger than they anticipated. The fact that the EU had started an investigation is probably what caused them to revert the decision, though we will never happen what the real reason was and what happened behind the scenes. In any case, the work that the Open Web Advocacy has done has undoubtedly played a major part. Whisthub is eternally grateful for this.

So, while it looks that all is well in the end and the Whisthub app can keep on existing on iOS, Apple has shown their true face. We will probably always have to be vigilant when it comes to Apple, but at least the fact that PWA support has been restored is a major win. In any case, I will keep you all posted in the future via the blog!