Apple is killing the Whisthub app

If you do not have an iPhone or iPad, you can just skip this blog post and happily go on with your life. Nothing is changing on Android or on PC. If you do use Whisthub on iPhone or iPad, unfortunately there is some bad news regarding the upcoming release of iOS 17.4. This blog post explains what is happening.

First of all, you have to understand that it will still be possible to play Whisthub on iPhone or iPad. Whisthub will always remain accessible via the browser if you go to It's only when you have installed the Whisthub app on your iPhone or iPad that you will be impacted. If you are not sure if you are using the Whisthub app or not, you can find more information below.

You are not viewing this on iPhone or iPad. Nothing changes for you!

Note that if you opened this blog post from an e-mail, you will probably be reading this in your browser. It's best to go to the blog from how you would normally open Whisthub. To do this, open Whisthub as you normally would and then click on /blog above the open rooms.

So, while using the Whisthub app is not required, if you want to use Whisthub in fullscreen mode on iPhone or iPad, this is only possible via the app, which you can install by opening Whisthub in Safari Safari, hit the share button and then look for "Add to homescreen". This actually installs Whisthub as a so called Progressive Web App - or PWA in short. If you have the Whisthub PWA installed, you also get access to push notifications, which are used in the friend system and to notify you when a room is full, both features that were only launched very recently.

Until now, you could install the Whisthub app on iOS by tapping the icon and subsequently look for "Add to homescreen" in the list

In the next update of iOS - iOS 17.4 - it will no longer be possible to install Whisthub as a PWA - at least not if you are in the European Union. If you already installed the Whisthub PWA before, it will open in a browser window, and no longer in fullscreen. Push notifications will no longer work either. The bad thing is that I cannot do anything about this on the side of Whisthub! Apple will simply disable the functionality. No way around it.

Apple claims that they are breaking PWAs to comply with the Digital Markets Act - or DMA in short - but that's just a bunch of lies. The DMA is a European law that forces a few tech giants - including Apple - to allow more competition on their platforms and which goes into effect on March 6, 2024. While more competition should be applauded, Apple is really, really not happy with this. As a response, they have invented a bunch of stuff to try and circumvent the DMA to protect their monopoly - stuff that smells a lot like malicious compliance. Removing support for PWAs such as Whisthub is part of this.

Whisthub offers a PWA so that we don't have to develop a native app for iOS. Native apps are the ones that you can find in the App Store. Apple makes a lot of money from them because if your app is in the App Store, you have to pay a fee of 30% on all purchases made in the app. This means that if Whisthub had a native app and you would get a premium subscription via the app, 30% of it ends up with Apple. That's even more than the 21% VAT that ends up with the government! Fun detail: Apple does not allow you to inform your customers that they can get a cheaper subscription if they just pay via the website!

Given that Apple makes so much money from native apps, they have always been very reluctant to properly support PWAs. For example, installing a PWA with "Add to homescreen" is not really intuitive, and push notifications with the Web Push API were added only less than a year ago, in March 2023, in iOS 16.4. Android has had these for years.

This is where the DMA comes into play: it forces Apple to allow multiple browser engines on iOS. You might not be aware, but if you are using Google Chrome Chromeon iPhone, it's actually just Safari under the hood. Apple policy. However, now that it is forced by law to allow other browser engines, these browsers might actually add proper support for PWAs - such as Chrome has done on Android . This would pose a real threat to Apple's App Store model, as PWAs would then be able to compete fairly with native apps, which is by the way the intent of the DMA!

To no surprise, Apple is terrified of losing their enormous profits from the App Store, and so they pulled the plug from PWAs altogether, meaning that other browsers can't implement them either. No more fullscreen, no more push notifications, even though the latter was added just less than a year ago! Waiting for years to add a feature, releasing it and then ignorantly removing it less than a year later: tell me that's not pure, pure evil.

So what are the options here? Unfortunately there's not much we can do. Obviously Whisthub will keep working as a website, but if you don't want to lose push notifications and the fullscreen experience of Whisthub, then I suggest you turn off automatic updates of iOS for the time being so that version 17.4 never lands on your phone. You can do this by going to "Settings" > "General" > "Software update". Of course this is not a solution in the long run as you will miss out on new features and security updates over time, but hopefully a solution will have arrived in the meantime.

My hope is mainly that the EU judges that this whole thing is violating the DMA and that they can force Apple to crave in and add back support for PWAs. The EU has apparently opened an investigation about it, so let's hope they force Apple to restore the functionality. The Open Web Advocacy has also written an open letter to Apple, which Whisthub has signed, and is doing a tremendous effort to make the general public aware about what Apple is trying to do.

The entire dev community - including me - is pissed off right now as everyone feels that Apple has really crossed the line this time. The last word probably hasn't been said about this and I am closely monitoring it. I will definitely keep you posted via the blog. If you want more information about what's happening, I can really recommend this article and this article.

Oh and please, do me a favor and don't ever buy a single product from Apple again. They have always been very protective of their ecosystem, but the middle finger they gave users and developers with their proposal to comply with DMA and now killing PWAs is something even Microsoft hasn't done during their darkest days abusing their monopoly. What a shit show.