The price of a Safari user in the ad market is going down, and it’s exactly what should be happening. I’m very happy with Apple.
You can implement these APIs while at the same time requiring explicit permission from the user before a web application can use them. This preserves privacy while also giving users the option to have much more powerful web applications.
Apple doesn't want to implement these APIs because currently if you want access to these things on iOS, you need to go through their walled garden App Store, where they get a big chunk of any revenue you might make on such a service and can nerf competitors and all the other anti-competitive stuff they're doing.
Except on the long term that would have no effect in empowering users. We all know that when faced with a deluge of permission requests, or pressured by the fact that enough people have already accepted and it's the entry price to collaborate, people will just hit accept and be done with it.
They only need to get the foot in the door and then you'll find that plenty of stuff ends up conditioned on you giving them access. Every one of these APIs is a Trojan horse. Past experience just proves that they will be hijacked for purposes that don't do the user any favors.
Look no further than JS which is there to enrich the web to benefit users but 99% of it is garbage slid under the door to benefit site owners. That's because plenty of things that should work just fine without it are now tied into it, disable JS and the site experience breaks.
How is that any different from apps on the App Store?
I love the web that actual dynamic logic on the frontend has allowed. I want more of that, not less.
The alternative to web apps that can do these things is native apps that can do these things. If you don't think native apps are tracking your behavior, you are sorely mistaken.
I think you missed my point, I also truly love that 1% of useful stuff that JS brings and wouldn't want to lose the functionality. But I absolutely hate the other 99% which I have no control over or I have to jump through uMatrix hoops to control.
Let's put it another way. You probably love that electricians and plumbers exist to fix your stuff. But if once you let them in they could invisibly camp in any room of your house without you even knowing where they are and what they're doing, would you still open the door for them?
These APIs can either give you a relatively broad "Allow on this site" option, or they can flood you with granular choices. The first opens the door for them camping in bed with you. The second is like someone triggering your alarm every 5 seconds until you disable it. Accept all. Then they can camp in bed with you.
Doesn't your experience tell you the same?
> If you don't think native apps are tracking your behavior, you are sorely mistaken
You see, this is exactly what I meant. "Those guys are screwing you over so it's OK if these ones do too". This is how the "screw the user over" arms race happens where everybody tries to outdo the others with even more invasive techniques, and users take it because each is just a slight escalation from before. When native apps were adding these "features" someone loved them for one reason or another. Frog in hot water.
P.S. Example of how the innocent battery API access can be sold as "to save battery" and then repurposed to screw you over:
Luckily you can have both, despite Apple wanting to pretend otherwise.
I have a bridge to sell you...
I think there are ways to get (a bit of) both. It's not simple though.
So apparently we now have to restrict all interesting functionality in the name of keeping the lowest common denominator from shooting their metaphorical feet. If there's a more charitable way to read their stance, I'd love to hear it.
I had 2 points actually, which I thought I made very legibly. I didn't think they they need a fourth reading but here we are... They are both solidly confirmed by present day reality. 1) is what you mentioned already. As seen with cookie prompts, app permissions, actual scientific studies, etc. if you pester people with alerts and popups they are desensitized and start ignoring and accepting them. 2) is that once you give a website permission you lost control. They lack even the modicum of oversight apps receive.
> So apparently we now have to restrict all interesting functionality
All? Hyperbole much? Or did you just decide that these 16 APIs are the crux of "interesting functionality" and freedom? It doesn't matter how much you allow there's always going to be someone to shout "they restricting eeeeverything around here". This is what security and privacy measures do, restrict some things because the benefit doesn't outweigh the cost/risk. All those features are sold as "essential" when in fact most of them at best address some minor nuisance. Then they're promptly hijacked for nefarious purposes because there's always going to be some wannabe coder who insists that his website needs to know my battery level for some (undoubtedly good) reason.
Care to ponder how we got here in the first place? With every piece of tech around trying to steal data from you one way or another, usually in a dishonest way? There's a reason Google is championing this and it's not that they want to give you "interesting features".
It's always a compromise and for the past decade+ we've been compromising a lot more on the privacy side. If you truly believe you can have both privacy and aaaaalll interesting functionality in the real world you're either naive or sitting on a gold mine.
A good example here would be the MIDI interface getting blocked because it allows binary uploads via certain control message, as well as device enumeration.
If privacy is the main issue with this API, then the allowed control messages that the API would accept could be limited strictly to note on, note off, key velocity, etc.. things that have no realistic possibility of data leakage or compromise.
But instead, no, we lose the whole thing, even though a more nuanced approach (and in this case, one that's easy to implement - MIDI being rather straightforward) would satisfy any privacy concerns.
So with that in mind, the fact that a privacy-respecting alternative exists, no. I don't believe for a hot minute that that this is all about privacy - that is mere marketing fluff. I instead believe it is Apple is using privacy as a pretext for ensuring that PWAs remain as gimped second-class citizens on the platform in furtherance of their lock-in.
Oh if I had a penny for every time someone said with such certainty that "this is safe" only to be proven wrong sooner rather than later I'd have a second yacht :).
> I don't believe for a hot minute that that this is all about privacy
Of course it's not. It's about appealing to the customer base Google and the likes are losing by using an actually useful feature as a bridge to them. For the moment our interests align, whether by side effect or not. That's it.
But while you get your "first class interesting features" in apps, and second class shaky experience in the browser, what do I get for privacy? They're both already turning (turned?) to malignancy with too much of the code dedicated to actual data extraction. You have your apps, let others have their browser at least. That was the escape when you wanted to touch Facebook and Google Maps and no 10ft pole was around. If you think I'm unreasonable for wanting a last bastion of privacy (saying this is a bit of a stretch), just think that you're the one who insists everything should be how you want it by turning even the browser into the hot mess that apps already are. And this in exchange for some "interesting features" that you already have if you need them just not in every single piece of software.
You're ostensibly a coder so I don't need to point you to all the instances of trust being breached via conscious decisions. But surely this time they won't abuse that power. Neither will the host of obscure and completely unvetted websites one may access.
I don't think there's more to be said. It never ceases too amaze me how cheaply people are willing to sell their privacy for and how much they're willing to fight to make sure this is everybody else's only option.
Maybe it shouldn't "asking for permission" but "giving your permission" explicitly. If you don't need such an API, you would never be bothered by it if the model is opt-in without notification/popups.
I understand the problem you have with websites asking for permissions, especially push notifications permissions, as they keep showing up. And I do definitely agree that having a website that does not need any of these permissions ask for it would be even more annoying but there are definitely cases where I'm glad a website can help me out (and I don't have to download a heavy client that might or might not have tracking and analytics in it)
How can this be so when the web browser itself is a heavy client?
And "heavy client" is a fallacy. Operating systems come with runtimes too. Very complex native app can be very small in size if it uses the native controls and APIs. They can be KB in size. Any asset is going to be bigger than the binary itself.
The web-as-native apps are the ones that are huge, because they embed a behemoth (a browser) which is akin to an entire operating system.
In theory native apps are "trusted", but I think for the vast majority of users the trust between a companies website and app are equivalent, vetted the same, and probably do an equivalent amount of tracking if not more by the native app (facebook SDKs are pretty common in native mobile apps).
Mobile apps are increasingly sandboxed too, like websites, precisely because of that.
Why not? It makes complete sense for something like a website that backs up the photos stored on your camera. What's even the counter argument, that if people want to back up their data they should have to pay Apple?
If you've granted a website access to a restricted API, the browser can just paint a flashing red border around the website or whatever, similar to how people configure their terminals when they're SSH'd into prod.
Isn't App store apps (Not reserved to Apple's one, this also works for Google, Microsoft and many others) untrusted code too? It runs with even more privileges than your browser's code and have access to more fingerprinting information if that's what it is going to do.
As far as I see it, a PWA with these permissions has less privacy risks than a native application I can find on a store. I'd really like to understand how installing an app is not an issue but having the access from the browser is. Is it simply the permission framework that is broken and you don't trust it to not leak information when the API is disabled?
Apple puts every submitted application through an enormous battery of automated (and sometimes manual) tests and disassembly to look for malicious or non-permitted behavior before publishing apps to the App Store. They don't have that ability with random websites.
> capabilities to perform sensitive operations in software which also deals with untrusted input from the Internet.
But native apps don't deal with input coming from the internet? If that's what you think, you're... wrong.
If you're going to write a native app, I am not subject to any of its radical security implications every time I try to browse the Web in general, and we are no longer in conflict.
Now what's the level of control anyone has over a website? In your lifetime you visited many orders of magnitude more websites than apps. How do you plan on validating every link you ever click on? Every redirect? Browsers are the front line on the internet, they face the biggest threats because they can't afford to work in a walled garden with curated content. You are one minor bug away from giving access to your USB connected devices to some random website without even realizing.
I don't think anyone is arguing that you are wrong about what you want. Just that what you want is wrong. Like a kid wanting more sugar, they can't spell diabetes so it can't be a problem. You're selling your privacy for trinkets and that wouldn't be anyone else's concern if there wasn't a critical mass of such users pushing everyone in the same direction. Every questionable decision made by companies was made with the (ignorant) backing of people like you who saw the shiny feature and couldn't see past that. And again, you have every right to want whatever you want no matter how smart or dumb that may be. But don't be so shocked when people call you out on it. It's only because you brought just your own personal preference into the discussion instead of the merits of giving up every shred of control over your stuff in exchange for some marbles.
There are perfectly valid reasons to want usb/bluetooth support for websites: fingerprint readers, smartcard readers and plenty of special-purpose hardware that would be useful to access through some web apps.
Does this mean every site should have access to all your hardware? Of course not. Let's make sure you have to bless a site to allow such access, make sure that the API can only be used from https-enabled (and trusted) origins, etc..
Your position of "just no because I don't see a need for it today" is a very close-minded one...
But you're not following the analogy. You just took it word for word and attacked something that wasn't even the point of it. You may as well have said "but websites aren't made of sugar".
I made concrete points on why websites shouldn't be trusted with such access. You did more of what was shown before, rattled the trinkets. And the use cases you listed don't seem like something you can't achieve now with existing APIs or dedicated apps, which makes more sense.
Stands to prove that the point of the analogy is more appropriate than ever: people can't understand the problem, let alone the solution.
thats a very good reason then for an app-store to enforce rules and code checking then, isnt it?
Apple is denying people their real rights to install whatever they want in their own machines, forcing everything to go through their app store, where they have the last word of who can or cannot distribute software to the platforms they have created.
They know that if they use the common "we are thinking of your well being" their customers and fans will just believe they are a good-willing company with no other interests than their users safety and well being.
I don't know why the majority of the crowd here in HN, who use to be so harsh in pointing out this kind of behavior in companies like Google and Microsoft, have this blindness with everything that has to do with Apple.
It will worth nothing, if after have defeated this beast with GNU, Linux, the Web, open software revolution, etc.. we end up not protecting what we have achieved so far, because somehow one company trying to secure their profits and its position in the market, get away with behaviors that can ultimately destroy the culture of freedom, open-source software and ultimately, digital rights, which our legislators are not prepared to defend, really understanding the threats and the dire future they represent if we dont uncover the true intentions behind this BS.
How do you do this bit “requiring explicit permission from the user before a web application can use them” without the fallout of “its just a hundred thousand popups and you’re done!” on every page?
The solution to privacy concerns is not "nuke functionality", it's "don't let websites abuse functionality for tracking purposes".
Just like how with native apps on iOS, the solution is not "don't let apps ever access GPS data", it's provide a UX that makes it fairly easy to choose and don't provide permissions to apps that don't need them.
from the page https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT203033
However, I have to admit that displaying one icon per permission would not scale great when having a dozen of them.
My parents aren't techsavy at all, so when they get those push notification requests, they just hit "accept". They now get dozens of spammy ads sent to them via push notifications (eg, "30% off sale, buy now!")
I get that in theory, web notifications are supposed to be valuable, but in practice its been nothing more than a constant annoyance for me.
Apple bros on HN: "Good! finally someone standing up to the BigTech abuse of privacy"
At least in democracy we can elect the people who define whats allowed or forbidden to us, and they can only do it, in the constraints of a constitution.
If we let companies get away with it, we are allowing them to create shadow states, a sort of new digital feudalism, where our digital overlords can control a big part of our lives. (Remember that we are going to a process of digitalization of our lives and experience, with IOT, AI, smart gadgets, to take into account how powerful a entity who can control all of this can be)
Today, its just Apple. But with people normalizing this kind of behavior, it will be more and more over time, til its too late for all of us.
By enforcing other browsers to use their implementation of Web platform, for instance, they knew they could control the Web from being a good contender to their exclusive application platform.
This kind of action alone, should be outlawed, because is pure uncompetitive behavior, not to say its hurting their customers freedom to choose whats best for them, and that actually have nothing to do with the privacy or safety of their users.
Also, you mention without evidence that Apple's actions have no relation to the safety or privacy of users. Are you claiming that their actions are merely a pretext, and that Apple provides no such value, or that they have no such intent? If so, how do you know?
Apple has no proper concept of digital property, as it thinks its entitled to do anything with the machines that i own, and of course, to make it less offensive, they will use the card that they are doing this always thinking of me like a loving mother.
Its not just Apple, but any company, giving the financial games they need to play, the goal is to maximize profits, so the well being of its user or consumer is secondary to that (You know that CEO XYZ that actually were thinking about the user first? gone.. the board kick him out of the company because the profits were bad in the last quarter). If they can get away with using BS, where people buy the reasons their are using to justify their actions, they will do it, because its good for their real goals.
If you want context, we can use the same on this thread. Where you can clearly see that is reasonable from the security perspective to bar some of them, but a lot of others, is to bar the web platform to compete with their app platform.
Its not just now, nor just this.. if you have been following closely, aware that they do this kind of thing, you see this pattern in a lot of other places.
With Apple is not even difficult to create a Dossie to point this out. But if you didnt notice this since the beginning of the iphone launch, i guess theres little i can do here.
Apple is very good at creating a emotional bound with its things.
I dont like this "evil vs. good" kind of narrative, and Apple is not evil or good per-se (this is a childish pointf of view). Its a tech company that will use their power and position to survive and thrive. But we also need to be aware that with novelties, new problems will arrive. And we need to be aware that sometimes with the sweet, there's also this sour taste that may become a big trouble in the following years, if we are not aware of it.
Cant you see which web apis, from the ones that were bared, that are not actually security threats, but would become a threat not to security but to their monopoly on the app platform in the devices they ship?
But wait, we can just use Chrome right? nope.. because Apple is forcing every other browser to use their own version of Webkit.
Even without the need to go through every move Apple is making, isn't that clear to you?
Its clear for me how Apple is and will be the new "IE 6" of tech, being a impediment not just to the evolution of the web, but all the tech moving forward, all because they need to maintain their feud where we end with less and less option of what we can do with the stuff that we own.
Its not very clear right now, because they are still moving the needle, but if you looked into te Microsoft of the nineties, you would also not believe it.. and yet in the 2000's it happened..
This is an old trope that has been disproven not only in law but also in practice. Many public companies' boards allow their executive teams the discretion to sacrifice short-term profits for long-term gains and to build customer trust. Apple is one such company; Amazon another.
Cant you see which web apis, from the ones that were bared, that are not actually security threats, but would become a threat not to security...
I'm no security expert, but Apple is full of security experts. When they say a web API has the potential to be a security vulnerability, I believe them. They've earned my trust. Perhaps they haven't earned yours--which is fine--but if you disagree with one of their conclusions, why don't you point out which ones you think they are wrong about, and the specific bases for your disagreement?
Which practice? Boeing? which law? the same one that have a tendency to favor this bad practice?
What about blind trust? People trusted their children to Priests, thinking they deserve trust because "of course they are priests, and priests are inherently good people right?"
People trusted their lives to Boeing entering their airplanes, because "Hey, its Boeing! they care a lot about safety, and you know those Boeing board members, CEO and that top management, and top airplanes experts cares a lot about my safety, i dont even need to bother".
An yet, there was something rot. And for me, its in the design of the whole system. It eventually will lead to another disaster like this, and i bet a lot of us will just point to the direct culprits, as to not spoil the whole game where a lot of people are doing great..
About the security aspect of those, the web have a permission system, have sandboxes, and a lot of security already implemented, that could let to the user to see if the site he is visiting really need what they are asking for. In the end isn't how people install apps anyway? If thoses features are security threats, why apps can use them? But you wont get Apple to discuss in this level, because they know, they wont be able to stand their argumentation, if its showed to them that the same level of security of apps, can also be there in the Web. They wont, because its not in their interest to do so, and it has nothing to do with their users.
Truth to be told, i dont like the trend of the web to become a whole OS... its flawed by design to do this sort of thing. But i expect Apple to be the worst kind of judge to this sort of thing, because they know that theres a tendency to develop for the Web even for phones, because its cheap for companies to follow this path.
They will as long as they can, to make the web platform
appear weak in comparison to their private offerings. Why not? I even expect them to do this, as long as they can get away with it. And as long as Apple has users that believe and trust them, they will get away with it. As you have said, you voted with your wallet, and a lot of people are willing, not aware, or dont care.. they just dont want to bother.
The same security they implement for apps, they can implement for the web, permissions systems, sandboxes and the like.
I've seen the list, and as long as there a permission system, and there's not a security flaw in the browser being exploited, i cant see a reason why not to allow this, except for the most obvious reason, and a lot of other practices from Apple that make obvious that they care more about being in control, otherwise not only its users security, but freedoms would being taking into account.
Less features, more secure, of course.. So they will always be able to get away with this kind of excuse.
But as Microsoft have learned, its not just about the users, but also making the developers happy. In the end is the collective of devs, and all the hours they expend in the platform, that will make the experience in that platform great for the end users.
Note that Apple does not regularly exercise that ability…
They're kinda useless for web browsers, but people see them in Chromium and believe they must be there for a reason other than ChromeOS. Apple and Firefox are doing it right. These things don't have a place in browsers.
For instance, the Audio API. You can test it using OpenWPM  and you will get the same ID in both normal and incognito mode. And this is only one of many things not blocked by default. ETAG tracking is pretty popular on pixels.
I'm not saying they aren't right, I'm just saying that they are somehow doing more PR than anything else. And as other comments are calling out, this makes it even harder to compete on IOS using PWA (How is a website asking for permission different from an app? Can't we have a permission framework just like apps?).
What's your point? Because one API can be used for something, Apple should let Safari be a free-for-all?
Apple forces you to use those. You have no choice, like on other platforms.
So they might catch some rogue apps, but far from reliable or trustworthy. They protect their platform image, nothing more.
With webapps at least I can take some measures like ad and tracking blocking myself. I don't have to give access to the system unless some case really warrants it.
Many APIs including getUserMedia and all of WebRTC are not supported in WkWebView (only way Firefox/Chrome works on iOS due to Apple policy blocking them from building their own browser) Means some apps will only work in iOS-Safari and not in iOS-Chrome/Firefox.
None of this has to do with privacy, being able to record media locally without sending to STUN/TURN server increases privacy not reduce it.
I haven't worked with web ads in a while, but from what I remember when I did, people with little data on file with the advertising networks got more ads, and better ads, because there was no record of them having seen the high-paying ads already.
The longer you surfed, and the longer you were tracked, the lower quality the ads became.
Again, I haven't been in this arena for a while, but that was true at the time, as told to me by the president of one of the larger non-FAANG advertising networks, over coffee.
But it's all a red herring anyway, isn't it? Are there any people out there saying, "I wish there was a way to give Google more information about me so that I can see better quality ads!"
Is this a thing? Do people in demographics which are less appealing to advertisers also see more intrusive ads?
Those ads might be terrible chum bucket stuff, but they would not be intruding into your privacy.