Apple TV doesn’t support Webviews – pushes for a clean, native experience

(Image Credit: Apple)

Most applications contain some form of Webview to allow a website to be loaded within your application; which makes it easy to update a single point across platforms. For developers on Apple platforms, iAd makes it easy to monetise within your application through simple but effective advertising campaigns. 

For the Apple TV, the boys and girls at Cupertino are removing both features. For the user this has clear advantages thanks to a speedy native app experience and the lack of advertising, but for developers this is going to make life more difficult and could put some off developing for the platform altogether. 

Apple developers find support for Webviews in the Webkit framework through a UIKit class known as UIWebview – but the class doesn't exist for Apple TV. There are classes available to fetch a page from a remote site, you can't do anything with it as   the content has to be parsed, the DOM has to be built, and the actual HTML has to be rendered and styled, and any embedded Javascript has to be run. 

What's strange about this is that it will limit many applications – although this could be the goal for the time being. Even applications from Apple on  their other platforms, such as Mail, use Webviews to display email messages because it's the most efficient method of styling and rendering them. You can't use share or sign-in dialogs using OAuth such as Twitter or Facebook, either. 

Observers will see this approach from Apple as one of two ways; either that Apple wants a high-quality of initial applications for the Apple TV from developers willing to put the extra work into creating a native experience, or that Apple is removing a cross-platform standard to ensure developers are more-likely to create applications just for their platform. 

Around 80% of applications probably use some form of Webview – it's just not feasible or cost-effective for some individuals or companies to create a 100% native app for each platform they want to hit (and keep that application updated.) 

Let's be honest, a large amount of developers will still invest time in creating applications for tvOS, but it will be interesting to see how many it puts off. 

Are you still interested in developing applications for Apple TV? Let us know in the comments.

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