Apple criticized because Safari on iOS still does not support WebXR

If Apple has invested heavily in augmented reality since the introduction of its own SDK called ARKit since the appearance of the iPhone X in 2017, the firm has not opened its system to other open standards on the web. Industry experts say the company “has been a drag on WebAR innovation” because Safari still doesn’t support the WebXR API.

A recurring problem for five years

As Protocol reports, industry experts are complaining about the difficulty of delivering AR and VR content to iPhone and iPad users on the web. For example, marketing agencies have invested in more immersive augmented reality campaigns to allow consumers to interact with products in a real environment.

However, on iOS, these experiences require users to download an app, which increases costs and reduces potential audience. This is because Safari is not compatible with the WebXR standard, a universal API that supports virtual and augmented reality headsets on websites.

WebXR is a set of standards used to support the rendering of 3D scenes to hardware designed to present virtual worlds (Virtual realityWhere VR), or to add graphical content in the real world, (Augmented realityWhere AR).

While Google Chrome on Android started supporting WebXR in 2018, the feature has yet to be added on iOS. Since WebKit is the only web engine allowed on iOS, developers can’t even build a third-party web browser compatible with WebXR. That’s why Mozilla has to make do with an app that uses ARKit and WebXR.

mozilla webxr viewer

If you want to launch a campaign with WebXR, you must therefore deprive yourself of some Internet users. In France, this represents nearly 30% of the market, and this figure even rises to 50% in the United States. There are workarounds for reaching iPhone users on the web, but they are more expensive and less effective than Apple’s ARKit.

WebXR support in sight on iOS?

There is no doubt that Apple will integrate the technology in the more or less near future; the question being when.

Maciej Stachowiak, head of WebKit (the engine used in Safari), said in 2020 that Apple was “enthusiastic about WebXR”. But since then, it’s dead calm on that side, developers even qualifying Safari as the new Internet Explorer because of Apple, which is in no hurry to support new features in its browser.

The good news comes with iOS 15.5 beta which brings experimental support for the WebXR API. It is possible that this will happen soon and that Apple will not communicate on it yet so as not to make a revelation before the release of its mixed reality headset which should arrive at the end of 2022 or the beginning of 2023. We imagined a presentation to developers with the beta of iOS 16.

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