At least one software engineer on the Google Chrome team is reportedly thoroughly unimpressed by the Apple-owned Safari browser and the whole platform. In fact, the software engineer in question, Alex Russell, recently dubbed the competing platform, rather than just Safari, as “uniquely underpowered” in an interview with Infrequently.
According to Mr. Russell, Apple “consistently” delays new features not only for WebKit and Safari, though. But also for any iOS browsers. And he plants the blame firmly with Apple. Moreover, those browser features are “key” to unlocking modern experiences with the web.
Perhaps more importantly, the engineer notes that Apple appears to do this with the intended goal of making sure there isn’t an alternative to its own tools. Namely, so that the web can’t be an alternative to its proprietary tools and App Store.
How has holding back the browser category on Apple products impacted end-users compared to Chrome?
The Googler’s statements, of course, come in response to Apple’s claim that developers who are unhappy with its App Store policies have other options. With the company pointing to the web as an alternative, in response to an ongoing tussle between it and game developer Epic. But, as the Google worker notes, the browser — and indeed all browsers — on the Apple-built OS lags behind significantly.
Now, Mr. Russell notes several key features that put the platform behind. And the contrasts, when compared to Chrome, are noteworthy. For instance, Apple doesn’t support push notifications, PWA installation interface components, background sync, and more. Apple also restricts access to hardware, from Bluetooth to NFC and USB, making offering controller support in gaming, for example, impossible.
Additionally, Apple lacks support for the AV1 standard, with Apple favoring HEVC standards that it earns a royalty for.
Are there any direct examples of the claimed lag?
Mr. Russell points more specifically, however, to Stadia and other gaming, including cloud gaming. Apple has, summarily, lagged behind adding support for gamepad APIs, further preventing app developers such as Epic from moving to the web instead of the App Store. And directly refuting Apple’s argument that disgruntled developers can simply move to that platform instead. Those APIs have been, according to Mr. Russell, available everywhere else for years.
Apple should have implemented these features and APIs on a more “timely” basis alongside every other platform, the engineer concludes. If they had, cloud gaming services could potentially have launched years earlier.