Apple has confirmed that iOS 17.4 users in the EU will be able to set third-party web browsers as a default and will no longer be limited to Safari. The company also confirmed that third-party developers will be able to build their web engines while no longer being forced to rely on WebKit.
These changes will be introduced with iOS 17.4 alongside a package of other changes in the EU only. Users will be free to set a preferred default browser other than Safari. Options will span browsers like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, and Opera. A new splash screen when opening Safari for the first time after updating to iOS 17.4 will inform users of the new default browser setting option.
The changes will also span to developers who will no longer be forced to use WebKit as a web engine for their browser apps. Developers will be free to develop their custom non-WebKit engines for browser apps as well as in-app browsing experiences when opening links. Previously, all developers were required to use WebKit as an underlying engine for their third-party browsers, but that will no longer be the case if developers choose so.
When set as the system default, the selected browser app on the iPhone or iPad will automatically open when tapping on any link, whether it’s within a message, an email, a note, or elsewhere. These changes only apply to browsers distributed within the EU, unlike the decision to allow game-streaming apps to all iOS users around the world.