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At Long Last, Apple iPhone Apps Will Have Access to Full-Speed Web Browsing

With iOS 8, Apple will no longer make third-party browsers and apps use a slower rendering engine.

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Until now, iPhone applications that wanted to display content had to use a separate, slower Apple browsing technology from the one employed in the mobile version of Safari.

With iOS 8, though, developers will have access to Apple’s fastest Javascript and other improved browsing methods as long as they use Apple’s latest WebKit programming interface.

That could be a big deal for both rival browsers such as Chrome, Opera and Dolphin as well as for other apps that display lots of Web links, such as Twitter and Facebook.

“Initial investigation makes it look very promising,” said Huib Kleinhout, who heads up Opera Coast, the company’s relatively new browser for iOS. The Javascript improvements will only be noticeable on sites that make heavy use of that technology, but Kleinhout said other changes will have broad impact in improving stability and avoiding some previously needed work-arounds.

“So overall we’re cautiously optimistic,” Kleinhout said. “It looks promising, but we only know if there are no caveats when everything has been implemented and tested.”

Developers have been generally pleased with increased openness from Apple, including the opening up of Touch ID, support for third-party keyboards and the new extensions allowing apps to talk to one another.

However, Kleinhout and others point out one big thing that is still missing on iOS: The ability to set a browser other than Safari as the default for showing Web pages.

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