Unveiling Gatekeeping Practices in Mobile Environments: A Comparative Analysis of Operating Systems and App Gardens

Juan Ortiz Freuler


Mobile applications are shaping information sharing, cultural expression, and social engagement. Employing a walkthrough methodology, this study examines the handling of user requests to access Web content via hyperlinks within 27 mobile apps operating in the Apple iOS ecosystem. The research reveals notable distinctions: traditional news media apps like CNN and BBC facilitate users’ direct access to Web content through their preferred mobile browsers with a single click, whereas many social media platforms confine users to in-app browsers. Tech giants like Alphabet and Microsoft trigger banner advertisements for their browsers when users click on a hyperlink within their e-mail apps. This approach allows them to capitalize on their dominant positions in one market to drive the visibility and adoption of products in adjacent markets. Moreover, emerging social media apps like TikTok adopt a policy of rendering hyperlinks unclickable, indicating a broader trend toward tightened control over information dissemination. These gatekeeping choices have far-reaching implications for user privacy, the equitable distribution of value between content creators and app administrators, and the future of the open Web.


mobile operating system, iOS, app stores, mobile apps, competition, privacy, browser choice, gatekeeping

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