by Jason Snell
Web developers are grumpy about Safari
Android and Web developer Nolan Lawson is unhappy with the pace of Apple’s integration of new web-development initiatives into Safari:
There was one company not in attendance, though, and they served as the proverbial elephant in the room that no one wanted to discuss. I heard them referred to cagily as “a company in California” or “a certain fruit company.” Their glowing logo illuminated nearly every laptop in the room, and yet it seemed like nobody dared speak their name. Of course I’m talking about Apple.
I don’t know enough about this subject to know whether Lawson’s claims that Apple is dragging its feet on valuable new Web technologies like IndexedDB and Service Worker are true. I don’t know if the pace of Safari and WebKit development has slowed. If either are true, that is potentially troubling.
What I do know is that Lawson doesn’t seem to really understand Apple’s priorities:
Although performance has been improving significantly with JSCore and the new WKWebView, the emerging features of the web platform – offline storage, push notifications, and “installable” webapps – have been notably absent on Safari. It’s tempting to interpret this as a deliberate effort by Apple to sabotage any threats to their App Store business model, but a conspiracy seems unlikely, since that part of the business mostly breaks even. Another possibility is that they’re just responding to the demands of iOS developers, which largely amount to 1) more native APIs and 2) Swift, Swift, Swift. But since Apple is pretty good at keeping a lid on their internal process, it’s anyone’s guess.
For Nolan, the important “emerging features of the web platform” are the features that allow web developers to write installable web apps that devices can treat more or less like native apps. It’s easy to see why web developers love this. But why would Apple put its all into this approach? It’s a vision that leads to a world of lower-quality, non-native, write-once-run-anywhere web apps.
I’m not saying that Apple should abandon support for web development initiatives, not at all, but it’s pretty clear to see what’s important to Apple on this front, and what’s not as important. Apple’s priorities as a platform owner are not necessarily going to jibe with the priorities of a web development community that’s looking for new worlds to conquer.