Did Apple make a Major Policy Change by Approving Web Browsing Apps for the iPhone?

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The blogosphere is buzzing with the news that Apple has made a major policy change by approving 3rd party web browsing apps for the iPhone in the last 24 hours.

MacRumors is reporting that the web browsing applications that have got approved have original submission dates ranging as far back as October, indicating that they have made a policy change recently.

However, does this change in policy mean that we will see Opera Mini or Firefox Mobile apps for the iPhone?

Before I try to answer that question here are the list of 3rd party web browsing applications for the iPhone that were approved by Apple in the last 24 hour (courtesy MacRumors):

  • Edge Browser (Free) – No loss of screen real estate to the address or navigation bars.
  • Incognito ($1.99) – Now you can browse without leaving a history of any kind.
  • WebMate:Tabbed Browser ($0.99) – Web Mate simplifies browsing by queuing up all the links you click on, then allowing you to view them one by one when you’re ready.
  • Shaking Web ($1.99) – adds a sophisticated algorithm to compensate for small hand shaking to allow for easier reading.

Quite frankly, they don’t appear to be full-blown web browser applications, they merely seem to be applications which are all based on Safari’s version of WebKit.

Gizmodo is spot on with the description of these apps:

“In a sense, they’re like browser extensions, but which can only run one at a time and as completely separate apps.

And that is probably the reason these iPhone apps were approved by Apple. Though the only thing that seems unanswered; is the reason for approving
some of these 3rd party web browsing applications for the iPhone only

Will this mean that full-blown browsers like Opera Mini, Firefox Mobile will be approved as iPhone apps? It is highly unlikely. If you have a been a regular reader here at iPhone Hacks, you will remember that Stephenson von Tetzchner, co-founder and CEO of Opera had given the following reason for halting development of their iPhone app while there were quite a few speculations that Opera Mini had got rejected from the App Store.

“Development was halted after the company looked at the details of the license agreement in Apple’s software development kit and realized that it would not be permitted. We stopped the work because of the prohibitive license”

Should Apple allow full-blown browsers like Opera Mini? Absolutely, just like we can use the browser of our choice on the computer, we should be able to use any browser we want on the iPhone. I love iPhone’s Safari browser so convincing me to switch to some other browser will be an uphill task.

But more importantly, it will keep Apple honest and will ensure that they are innovating more aggressively though based on their impressive track record such external pressure is not really required.

What do you think?

Thanks Josh for the tip!

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