First spotted by AppleInsider, the new in-app Safari prompts use Apple’s Smart App Banner API, first introduced in iOS 13, which allows developers to prompt users to download their third-party app from the App Store or a corresponding link from Safari.
In this case, Apple is using the Smart App Banner framework to direct users to its own News app when they visit a website hosted by a publication that is also an Apple News+ partner. It’s worth noting that the banners only appear for users who subscribe to Apple News+.
The Smart App Banner code on affected pages is reportedly unchanged, making it seem likely that it’s a change to the way Safari handles publisher URLs, but it remains unclear if developers are able to control which banner appears.
The news follows a similar change Apple made in iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur that directs users who tap to read a news story in Safari to the Apple News app instead of to the publisher’s website.
Many Apple News+ users have been asking for a way to open up web links in Apple News+ to avoid paywalls on the web, so Apple News+ subscribers that pay for the service are likely to be appreciative of the new feature.
However, it has not gone down well with some large publishers, three of which have said they were not informed of the change and are now evaluating whether to terminate their relationship with Apple News+ as a result.
There have been multiple reports suggesting publishers are unimpressed with the revenue generated from Apple News+, which has fallen below Apple’s initial promises. Apple has not only struggled to entice new publishers to the paid service, it has had difficulty gaining new subscribers since it launched in March 2019.