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Apple is finally allowing browsers, like those shown here, on the iPhone. Wondering why you've never heard of any of them? Apple is only allowing third party browsers based on its Safari webkit, which means no Firefox, Opera, or Chrome.
Apple opens gate to independent software companies to publish browsers with a significant catch

Since the App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch debuted, it has been a runaway hit selling millions of apps and spawning an entirely new software industry.  However, Apple has developed a reputation over the course of last year as a bit of a dictator when it comes to the app store.  Apple was quick to shoot down any applications which it found offensive or which it felt might interfere with its own apps.  That meant competitive internet browsers or music players were less than welcome at the store.

When it comes to internet browsers, Apple has announced that it will finally be relenting, but only somewhat.  Apple is dropping its "duplication of functionality" clause, and as of yesterday has began to approve several "new" browsers that had been gathering dust the last couple months.

The catch -- and it’s a big one -- is that all the browsers it’s approving are based on Apple’s Safari.  For those expecting Firefox, Chrome, or Opera, you are in for a disappointment.

Meet Apple's new browsers:  there's the "Edge" browser, which is a plainer looking browser without Safari's chrome, there's the privacy inclined "Incognito", there's the vibration-countering "Shaking Web", and there's an enhanced tab browser "WebMate".  The apps are all built, though, on Safari's WebKit and are thus Apple-powered.

While it might seem like the new browsers are akin to Safari extensions, unlike extensions, they're considered fully fledged apps.  And that means you can only run one at a time.  Really, the new browsers aren't even that new in a sense as the NYT, AP, and USA Today apps all used the Safari WebKit to improve their functionality.

The only difference is that the change opens the door to new products which could, in a respect replace Apple's base product, the Safari browser.  While Apple will likely get a slice of the revenue if one of them takes off, it will be a smaller slice, and it will have less control. 

With many users reporting the stock Safari to be buggy and glitch-prone, the idea of independent developers being able to improve it, a la Firefox, is a welcome one to many.  Additionally, it seems like it will only be a matter of time before Firefox, Opera and others are fully allowed.  However, Apple is known to keep its users hoping in vain, so that's by no means a sure bet.



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So Close
By kelmon on 1/14/2009 10:23:48 AM , Rating: 2
As has already been pointed out, these applications are using the WebKit frameworks provided in the iPhone SDK to implement web browsing functionality in the same way that Apple's Safari application does. WebKit is not "owned" by Apple but they are a significant contributor to the open source project in terms of financing and personnel.

Google's Chrome, plus other WebKit-based browsers, are perfectly viable on the iPhone, although clearly functionality would be limited relative to the desktop version.




RE: So Close
By Ryanman on 1/14/2009 11:01:01 AM , Rating: 2
You'd think that apple would include the "shake" feature itself... with all the little gimmicks they've thrown in, this seems like the most obvious (and potentially useful) one.


RE: So Close
By kelmon on 1/14/2009 11:08:45 AM , Rating: 2
I'd have to see it in action for myself but if it truly does remove "shaking" when you are trying to read on the move, then that's genius. I suspect that it's not in Safari simply because no one had thought of using the accelerometer in that way. It's remarkable what good ideas people are having. Thank goodness we aren't still restricted to developing 3rd party applications for the iPhone using web apps. Yick!


RE: So Close
By omnicronx on 1/14/2009 12:19:24 PM , Rating: 2
This all depends on what Apple considers 'based on'. Safari is an offshoot of WebKit and is owned by Apple, if Apple decides that these browsers have to be directly based off of safari, then Apple can surely pull alot more weight then by simply putting the restriction on being WEBKIT based.

This would also stop Googles Chrome from making a debut on the iphone.


RE: So Close
By kelmon on 1/14/2009 2:05:21 PM , Rating: 2
No, it's just plain ol' WebKit. Safari is just a "wrapper" around the WebKit rendering engine that provides functionality like bookmark management - it's not an offshoot. The WebKit framework is part of the iPhone SDK, much like it is for desktop OS X application development. It's one reason why there are quite a few WebKit-based browsers for the Mac (e.g. Omniweb, Shiira, etc.) - it's very easy to get a basic browser up and running. It's funny. At one time there was basically just IE and Netscape for the Mac and now you can't move for browsers...

The only reason why Chrome might not make it to the iPhone is if they do something like replace the JavaScript engine and Apple takes offense to this. Still, since they haven't even released a desktop OS X version yet, I guess we'll have to wait a while to see if Google hits a problem, assuming that they even want to make an iPhone version.


"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis














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