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Is Apple Deliberately Slowing Down Web Apps?

Is Apple Deliberately Slowing Down Web Apps?

March 15, 2011
Web apps launched from the home screen of the iPhone/iPod touch or iPad run at significantly slower speeds than when started using mobile Safari. In addition, the iOS is hampering the performance of these apps in other ways too, according to an exclusive report by the UK's The Register. While it is unclear whether these issues are accidental bugs or introduced by Apple deliberately remains to be seen. Regardless of the reason, this news is troubling and potentially damaging to Apple. A web app is a way to introduce a product onto the iPhone/iPad without going through Apple’s iTunes Store. Whereas native apps can only run on Apple's iOS, web apps have the potential to run on any device. This is because they are built using web technologies such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. For users, these web apps are accessed through mobile Safari. Since revisiting a website in this way is cumbersome, users often save shortcuts to the site onto their iDevice’s home screen. These links, known as web apps, look similar to native apps on a user’s iPhone/iPad. Google, Kazaa, and Readability are just three companies, which use web apps as a way to reach customers. According to The Register, Apple's iOS slows down these apps using numerous tricks. First, web apps launched from the home screen cannot take advantage of mobile Safari’s new high-speed Nitro JavaScript engine, which was introduced by Apple with iOS 4.3. Second, home screen websites can’t use web caching systems, including the HTML5 Application Cache. This means they can’t be run offline. Finally, even though native apps are rendered using Apple’s newer “asynchronous mode,” the same cannot be said about web apps. These are encumbered with the old “synchronous mode,” which don’t look as good. According to one mobile web app developer, speaking to The Register:
"Apple is basically using subtle defects to make web apps appear to be low quality – even when they claim HTML5 is a fully supported platform."
If Apple is tinkering with how web apps perform on its iOS, they have a lot of explaining to do. After all, Steve Jobs mentions often that one of the reasons his company is forgoing Adobe’s Flash on its iDevices is because the openness of HTML5 makes it unnecessary. By slowing web apps down (either deliberately or not), Apple makes it harder for them to replace native apps distributed through the App Store, and hence, guarantees Apple its 30 percent cut. So far, Apple has not commented on these findings. What do you think? Is this a simple bug or is Apple up to something not so nice? Leave your comments below.

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