Big tech companies will have to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) in early March, and the broad legislation is already forcing some major changes.
The law, which is designed to ensure fairer competition between tech giants, designates some large online companies and their services as “gatekeepers.” Those that have received the gatekeeper designation — the companies on the list are Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, ByteDance, Meta, and Microsoft — will have to meet strict requirements intended to reduce anticompetitive behavior. (Apple, Meta, and TikTok have appealed their designations; Google and Microsoft say they won’t.)
Ahead of the early March deadline, we’ve already seen some tech companies make changes, like Google, which is letting EU users choose which services share their data. But there is likely a lot more news to come on how the tech industry will adjust to the DMA.
You can read all of our coverage about the DMA below.
Apple could soon face an investigation over its decision to discontinue iPhone web apps in the European Union, according to a report from the Financial Times. The European Commission has reportedly sent Apple and app developers requests for more information to assist in its evaluation.Read Article >
“We are indeed looking at the compliance packages of all gatekeepers, including Apple,” the European Commission says in a statement to The Verge provided by spokesperson Lea Zuber. “In that context, we’re in particular looking into the issue of progressive web apps, and can confirm sending the requests for information to Apple and to app developers, who can provide useful information for our assessment.”
A Sunday morning report from the Financial Times says the €500 million (about $539 million USD) fine comes after regulators investigated a Spotify complaint that Apple policies prevent iPhone apps from telling users about cheaper alternatives to Apple’s music service.Read Article >
The issue comes down to Apple’s efforts to keep apps and users corraled inside its App Store payments system. Spotify complained in 2019 that Apple’s policies muted competition against Apple Music, kicking off an EU investigation the next year. The EU whittled its objections down to oppose Apple’s refusal to let developers even link out to their own subscription sign-ups within their apps — a policy that Apple changed in 2022 following regulatory pressure in Japan.
Epic is one step closer to opening its iOS games store in the European Union. As part of its 2023 year in review, Epic Games announced Apple has reinstated its developer account, which means it will finally be able to let users download Fortnite on iPhones again.Read Article >
Epic first announced plans to bring its game store and Fortnite to iOS in January, but it wasn’t clear whether Apple would grant it a developer account.
Apple is officially axing support for progressive web apps for iPhone users located in the European Union. While web apps have been broken for EU users in every iOS 17.4 beta so far, Apple has now confirmed that this is a feature, not a bug.Read Article >
In an update to its developer website spotted by 9to5Mac, Apple says it’s removing homescreen apps for users in the EU because bringing them into compliance with the Digital Markets Act (DMA) would involve “an entirely new integration architecture” that’s “not practical” to build on top of the other changes it’s been forced to make. One of these changes requires Apple to let third-party browsers use their own engines on iOS.
Apple appears to be turning off the ability to use web apps right from the iPhone’s homescreen in the European Union. Support for progressive web apps appeared to be broken inside in the EU during the first two betas of iOS 17.4, but today developer Maximiliano Firtman said in a post on X that web apps are still turned off in the third beta, which arrived yesterday. “At this point, it’s a feature disabled on purpose,” Firtman wrote.Read Article >
Now, instead of opening in a full-screen window, web apps open in your web browser, making them act more like shortcuts. Developers Mysk found that when you select a web app for the first time, it will trigger a pop-up that asks to open the app in your default web browser. Once the app opens, the browser’s address bar and toolbar remain at the bottom of the web app while you use it.
Feb 13Google’s not happy about Apple and Microsoft escaping some DMA rules.
Today the European Commission decided against designating Apple’s iMessage and three Microsoft products as core platform services under the Digital Markets Act. “Excluding these popular services from DMA rules means consumers and businesses won’t be offered the breadth of choice that already exists on other, more open platforms,” Google spokesperson Emily Clarke tells The Verge.
Google, of course, lobbied for iMessage’s designation.
TikTok’s attempt to stall the EU from designating it as a “gatekeeper” — companies with platforms powerful enough that they must follow strict Digital Markets Act (DMA) antitrust rules — has been rejected by a court. Bloomberg reports that the EU’s General Court has dismissed owner ByteDance’s request for an interim measure that would effectively would buy TikTok some more time to implement the regulations, finding that the company “failed to demonstrate the urgency” required.Read Article >
Although TikTok is appealing the EU’s gatekeeper designation, the bloc still hasn’t reached a final decision yet on the appeal. ByteDance asked for an interim measure in December so it wouldn’t have to comply with the regulations before the EU decided the outcome of the appeal. Today’s decision is a rejection of that request, meaning that TikTok will have to at least temporarily comply with DMA rules that go into effect in March, even if the EU decides later to approve the appeal.
Feb 9Apple opens its doors to developers’ alternative app stores ahead of March launch.
In compliance with the Digital Markets Act, Apple now lets developers add alternative marketplaces and submit their apps for Notarization, two key steps as Apple prepares to end its exclusive role in iPhone app distribution with its iOS 17.4 release in the EU next month.
WhatsApp, like many other major tech platforms, will have to make some significant changes to comply with the European Union’s Digital Markets Act (DMA). One of those changes is interoperability with other messaging platforms, a move WhatsApp engineering director Dick Brouwer explains in an interview with Wired.Read Article >
The shift toward interoperability will first include text messages, images, voice messages, videos, and files sent from one person to another. In theory, this would allow users to chat with people on WhatsApp through third-party apps, like iMessage, Telegram, Google Messages, and Signal, and vice versa.
Thanks to new regulations, Apple is technically enabling the creation of alternative iPhone app stores in the European Union. But that doesn’t mean large developers like Meta will bite.Read Article >
CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared his company’s view on Apple’s new policies during Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Thursday:
Spotify — one of Apple’s biggest critics — says Apple’s new plan to comply with the European Union’s tech regulations is “a complete and total farce.” In a post published on Spotify’s website, the company calls Apple’s new app installation fee “extortion, plain and simple” and says Apple is trying to force developers not to leave its store.Read Article >
The fee, which Apple calls the Core Technology Fee, will require developers using third-party app stores to pay €0.50 for each annual app install after 1 million downloads. Spotify says the new tax will hurt developers, especially if they’re offering apps for free. “From our read of Apple’s proposal, a developer would have to pay this fee even if a user downloaded the app, never used it and forgot to delete it,” Spotify writes.
Apple’s new rules in the European Union mean browsers like Firefox can finally use their own engines on iOS. Although this may seem like a welcome change, Mozilla spokesperson Damiano DeMonte tells The Verge it’s “extremely disappointed” with the way things turned out.Read Article >
“We are still reviewing the technical details but are extremely disappointed with Apple’s proposed plan to restrict the newly-announced BrowserEngineKit to EU-specific apps,” DeMonte says. “The effect of this would be to force an independent browser like Firefox to build and maintain two separate browser implementations — a burden Apple themselves will not have to bear.”
Jan 26Apple explains the EU’s new iPhone/iPad split.
It’s a difference of three letters, but Apple contends iPadOS is in a different EU regulatory category than iOS, so most of its newly (sort of) open app store policies only apply to the latter. 9to5Mac has a breakdown of that nuance, starting with one big limitation:
The ability to install third-party app marketplaces and download apps from third-party app marketplaces will be an option only on the iPhone.
And of course, that’s far from the only fine print.
Jan 26Apple’s new default browser prompt for EU market iPhones will have a dozen options.
Among iOS 12.4’s DMA-mandated changes, there’s a prompt to pick a default web browser the first time people in EU markets open Safari after they upgrade.
9to5Mac reports that, according to Apple, options will include the top 12 browsers for that country, presented in random order.1 It also has the lists for each country, so Luxembourg users, for example, should see Aloha, Brave, Chrome, DuckDuckGo, Ecosia, Edge, Firefox, Web@Work, Onion Browser, Opera, Safari, and You.com AI Search Assistant.
Apple is finally opening up the iPhone to sideloading and alternative app stores — at least in the European Union. It’s also allowing developers to use third-party payment processors in their apps. This is all part of Apple’s efforts to comply with the EU’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA), and at the surface, these changes make it seem like Apple is giving in to regulatory pressure.Read Article >
But some developers are already responding with criticism about Apple’s new guidelines. Epic Games CEO (and part-time Apple critic) Tim Sweeney notably called out the changes as “hot garbage,” even as Epic announced it would be launching its own app store through them. That’s because Apple’s new business terms come with some pretty big disadvantages — especially for larger developers. While the new rules would reduce the commission Apple takes, it would add a new €0.50 (~54 cents USD) Core Technology Fee for apps with over 1 million downloads. For successful apps, those fees add up.
Apple is finally opening the iPhone to third-party app stores in the European Union, kicking off a potentially vibrant, unwieldy, and eclectic new era for its app ecosystem. At least, it might, depending on how developers respond to a hurdle that is at once tiny and immense: a €0.50 fee.Read Article >
Apple is introducing a new fee structure for apps that want to operate on these third-party stores. On the surface, it looks great: apps pay no cut of sales to Apple if they’re distributed via a third-party store. And if a developer still wants to be distributed via Apple’s App Store, too, the cut drops from the traditional 30 percent fee down to 17 percent. It’s an even lower 10 percent fee for qualifying “small business” apps, down from the original 15 percent. So far, a much better deal.
Epic plans to launch the Epic Games Store on the iPhone this year in the European Union — and it’s bringing Fortnite back to the platform along with it.Read Article >
The announcement comes after Apple shared how it will open up iOS in response to the EU’s crackdown on Big Tech. Epic CEO Tim Sweeney described Apple’s rules as “hot garbage,” but they are clearly not so hot as to keep Epic away altogether.
Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic Games, has a lot to say about the changes Apple made to its App Store in the European Union. In a lengthy post on X (formerly Twitter), Sweeney calls the update “a new instance of Malicious Compliance” — or, in layman’s terms, “hot garbage.”Read Article >
This afternoon, Apple announced it would allow sideloading, alternative app stores, and third-party browser engines on the iPhone with the rollout of iOS 17.4 this March. The company will also open up the App Store to game streaming services, and will finally allow developers to use alternative in-app payment options. Apple made the changes to comply with the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), which requires large tech companies to follow a strict set of rules aimed at encouraging competition in the mobile app market and other areas.
The iPhone’s app ecosystem is about to go through its biggest shake-up since the App Store launched in 2008. Today, Apple announced how it plans to change the rules for developers releasing iOS software in the European Union in response to the bloc’s Digital Markets Act (DMA) coming into force in March. The big news is that third-party app stores will be allowed on iOS for the first time, breaking the Apple App Store’s position as the sole distributor of iPhone apps. The changes will arrive with iOS 17.4 in March.Read Article >
Here’s how the new “alternative app marketplaces,” as Apple called them, will work. Users in the EU and on iOS 17.4 will be able to download a marketplace from that marketplace’s website. In order to be used on an iPhone, those marketplaces have to go through Apple’s approval process, and once you download one, you have to explicitly give it permission to download apps to your device. But once the marketplace is approved and on your device, you can download anything you want — including apps that violate App Store guidelines. You can even set a non-App Store marketplace as the default on your device.
Jan 24Apple’s EU-induced iOS sideloading plans are starting to emerge.
Here’s the Wall Street Journal with a look at how Apple could maintain “close oversight” of iOS sideloading in the EU after the Digital Markets Act’s March deadline:
The company will give itself the ability to review each app downloaded outside of its App Store. Apple also plans to collect fees from developers that offer downloads outside of the App Store, said people familiar with the company’s plans.
I will be very interested to see if the EU is happy with such a tightly controlled approach. The EU’s top antitrust official Margrethe Vestager recently said it “stands absolutely ready to do noncompliance cases.”WSJ News Exclusive | Apple Plans New Fees and Restrictions for Downloads Outside App Store
[The Wall Street Journal]
At first glance, the mockups Spotify has created of its dream app don’t look like much of anything: a card that says how much a subscription costs, the list price of an audiobook, and a button that lets you enter your payment information. Isn’t that how the app already works?Read Article >
Much to Spotify’s consternation, none of that is there today. Because Apple takes a 30 percent fee on in-app purchases for digital goods and services, companies like Spotify have decided it is simply not worth it to allow such transactions inside their apps. It’s led to a bad experience for users — how do we even buy these things? — and fewer sales for Spotify, which has to hope its users are motivated enough to go somewhere else to sign up for a subscription or purchase an audiobook.
EU users will be able to unlink their Instagram and Facebook accounts, as well as other Meta services ahead of the bloc’s new Digital Markets Act (DMA) coming into force in March, the company has announced. The changes will apply in the European Union, European Economic Area, and Switzerland, and notifications informing users of the change will appear in the coming weeks.Read Article >
The changes mean that EU users will be able to use many of Meta’s services without their information being shared between them. People will be able to use Facebook Messenger as a stand-alone service without a Facebook account, for example, and if they’ve previously linked their Facebook and Instagram accounts they’ll be able to unlink them. (Meta’s help page notes that linking accounts like this is used for features like targeting ads, personalizing content recommendations, and sharing posts).
Google is testing changes to some of its most important services including Search, the Chrome browser, and its Android operating system ahead of the European Union’s tough new antitrust rules coming into force in March, the company has announced. The changes come as a result of the bloc’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), a sweeping piece of legislation under which Google has been designated as a “gatekeeper” and given new rules for how it can operate important “core platform services.”Read Article >
On Android, it’s introducing a new browser choice screen during initial device setup, similar to what it already offers to let users pick between different search engines. (This search engine choice screen’s roots lie in a €4.3 billion fine from the EU over Android antitrust violations in 2018.) Outside of Android, its Chrome browser is also getting a similar choice screen for search engines to prompt users to choose an alternative to Google Search if they desire. Both will appear on devices purchased in the European Economic Area after March 6th.
Google just announced a change for users in Europe that will let them decide exactly how much data-sharing they’re comfortable with. The new policy, which the company said was in response to the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), allows users to opt out of data sharing across all, some, or none of a select number of Google’s services. The services listed include YouTube, Search, ad services, Google Play, Chrome, Google Shopping, and Google Maps. But the policy isn’t watertight — Google will still share user data when it’s necessary to complete a task (e.g., if you’re paying for a purchase on Google Shopping with Google Pay) in order to comply with the law, stop fraud, or protect against abuse.Read Article >
That’s not the biggest change that Google will have to make to comply with the DMA, which goes into effect on March 6th. The law also includes additional rules on interoperability and competition. For example, Google will no longer be able to treat its own services more favorably in Search’s ranking than other third-party services.
Apple is appealing a European Union decision that would see its App Store hit with tough new obligations under the Digital Markets Act (DMA). Reuters reports that its plea argues against the European Commission’s designations of its App Store and the iMessage service.Read Article >
According to Reuters, Apple argues that the Commission’s treatment of the App Stores on iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV, and Apple Watch as a single store is based on “material factual errors,” as they all distribute apps for a specific platform and type of device.