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Google continues iOS subterfuge with Chrome API for iOS

updated 09:53 pm EDT, Tue May 7, 2013

Lets devs bypass Safari and use Chrome as default in-app browser

Shortly after updating its GMail iOS app to allow it to link directly to Chrome and other Google apps as needed, the search and ad giant is now offering Chrome for iOS integration tools to developers that allow them to specify Chrome as the browser to use for in-app web interaction, bypassing Safari unless Chrome is not already installed. The tools can give developers the option of using Chrome or asking the user if they would like to open a link in Chrome rather than Safari. It's not yet clear if the changes represent any breach of Apple's iOS guidelines.

Because it is the default browser in iOS, nearly all web calls inside apps on iOS are handled by Mobile Safari's WebKit engine. Despite the differences between Safari and Chrome on the desktop, Chrome for iOS uses the same WebKit as Safari, meaning that the change is more symbolic than substantial. Developers of third-party iOS apps can using the new OpenInChromeController class with x-callback, that allows the app to open a web page in Chrome and return back to the app with a custom-named back button.

The app will first check to see if Chrome is installed, and if so send links to Chrome with or without the callback function. It can even be specified to open the target web page in a new tab. Google's previous update to GMail allows direct links to some of its other apps, including YouTube and Google Maps rather than Apple's Maps app. Of course, iOS has allowed direct links to other apps since the beginning -- YouTube links in apps such as Facebook have always been able to be directly routed to an installed YouTube app, for example.

The change here, however, is that now Google is attempting to bypass Apple-made apps such as Maps, Mail and now Safari. On the one hand, this offers iOS app developers and users more choice, but on the other hand it may undermine the iOS experience as envisioned by Apple and conceivably create a security risk should Chrome be found to have some exploitable flaw. It remains to be seen if Apple will let the changes by Google stand, or modify its guidelines to prevent further erosion of its strong grip on the iOS experience.



By Electronista Staff
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Comments

  1. mr100percent

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 12-06-99

    Eh, this is interesting, but not that big of a threat. Chrome is the minority browser on iOS, and is used mainly by people who want to sync bookmarks or google apps. If a developer wanted to make their apps open in Chrome, fine, but I can't imagine a developer skipping Safari entirely.

  1. apostle

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-16-08

    Since Google started stripping "user client" information from it's "referral data" I've found it pretty much useless to offer services based on web referrals. People would come to my website looking for "this, that or the other thing". But now Google (encrypted searches) allow users to access my website without (my having) any idea why they ended up at my site.. Are you some visitor looking for something specific? I may be able to fulfill your inquiries. But I do not know why you came to my website in the first place. Because Google stripped it out. Are you interested in "this"? Cool, I offer a lot of "this". Unfortunately, Google stripped out your desire to search for "this" - and so my website defaulted to "that", because I had no idea as to what you desired to see - thanks to Google Encrypted search.

    Just my opinion...

    So don't blame me...

    =0)

  1. apostle

    Junior Member

    Joined: 04-16-08

    P.S. I signed up for Google Analytics. Whose services are so vague and inconclusive as to be a token offering meant to pacify newbies - and further infuriate users looking for a professional offering currently beyond the abilities of Google employees.

    fwiw

  1. airmanchairman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-08-11

    Not much of an "end run", when you consider that all 3rd party browsers on the iOS platform, Chrome included, are little more than "Safari with a 3rd party wrapper", by which I mean Apple's version of mobile WebKit is the underlying browser engine on all iOS devices anyway.

    On the plus side, users of Google services now have a "native Google experience" of sorts on iOS devices, but only at the expense of losing the speedy Nitro JavaScript engine that is Safari-only, as well as the more important ability to add articles to their Macs, PCs, iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches in one action using Reading List.

    With this in mind, it will not surprise me if Apple let's this change ride (surely Goog could not have slipped this past Apple's scrutiny at App Store or Management levels), as it helps to debunk the argument that they are overly controlling and exclusive of 3rd party alternatives.

    The opportunity is Google's to lose in the twinkling of an eye if they let privacy infractions and malware intrusions jeopardise the iOS platform, however...

  1. lpkmckenna

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 07-04-04

    Apple should just allow users to designate other apps as the default for mail, web, and so on.

  1. The Vicar

    Junior Member

    Joined: 07-01-09

    @lpkmckenna:

    And within days of permitting that, they would be flooded with support questions for third-party mail and web apps, and people would be complaining that Apple support was incompetent because they couldn't troubleshoot "their own" mail app. Within a month, whiners like you would be endlessly echoing the complaint, too. Better for all concerned that they make it clear where the boundaries are.

  1. lpkmckenna

    Addicted to MacNN

    Joined: 07-04-04

    Nonsense. Pre-fabbed reply: "Apple regrets that this third-party app is causing issues. Switch your default email app back to Apple's Mail like this ....."

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