Google is building a browser that breaks Apple’s iOS rules
If Apple opens up iOS 17 to third-party browser engines this year, Chrome will be ready. According to a report from The Register, Google is already working on an “experimental application” that brings a Blink-powered browser to iOS.
The project, which is described as a “content shell iOS port” is being used “to measure graphics and input latencies by providing traces for analysis.” Google insists the browser will not be available to users and the company will continue to abide by Apple’s policies. A spokesperson told The Register the project is strictly for “experimental” purposes.
However, it’s hard to not read between the lines. Bloomberg reported last year that Apple could open up iOS 17 in unprecedented ways this fall, including the allowance of third-party app stores and browser engines in an effort to appease regulatory agencies. If that were to happen, Google would be able to build a true Chrome browser rather than a WebKit browser with Chrome styling and features.
According to The Register’s sources within Google, the code “looks like the start of an alternate browser build, though in skeletal form” and is missing several necessary features to make it a shippable product. However, it could definitely be ready by the time iOS 17 ships in September if Apple allows such a thing in its App Store.
And it would open the door to other browsers as well. Several Mac browsers use Google’s Blink engine, including Chrome, Opera, and Brave. Assuming Google’s experiment is successful and Apple allows third-party engines at some point, they will likely adopt Blink for iOS as well, along with Firefox’s Gecko engine.
A Blink browser would bring the first real competition for Safari on the iPhone. With the same WebKit engine, there is little reason to download a competing browser other than syncing, but Google is betting that will change this year.