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.