How to: Customize browsers and WebViews for iOS/macOS

A web browser is required for interactive authentication. On iOS and macOS 10.15+, the Microsoft Authentication Library (MSAL) uses the system web browser by default (which might appear on top of your app) to do interactive authentication to sign in users. Using the system browser has the advantage of sharing the Single Sign On (SSO) state with other applications and with web applications.

You can change the experience by customizing the configuration to other options for displaying web content, such as:

For iOS only:

For iOS and macOS:

MSAL for macOS only supports WKWebView on older OS versions. ASWebAuthenticationSession is only supported on macOS 10.15 and above.

System browsers

For iOS, ASWebAuthenticationSession, SFAuthenticationSession, and SFSafariViewController are considered system browsers. For macOS, only ASWebAuthenticationSession is available. In general, system browsers share cookies and other website data with the Safari browser application.

By default, MSAL will dynamically detect iOS version and select the recommended system browser available on that version. On iOS 12+ it will be ASWebAuthenticationSession.

Default configuration for iOS

Version Web browser
iOS 12+ ASWebAuthenticationSession
iOS 11 SFAuthenticationSession
iOS 10 SFSafariViewController

Default configuration for macOS

Version Web browser
macOS 10.15+ ASWebAuthenticationSession
other versions WKWebView

Developers can also select a different system browser for MSAL apps:

  • SFAuthenticationSession is the iOS 11 version of ASWebAuthenticationSession.
  • SFSafariViewController is more general purpose and provides an interface for browsing the web and can be used for login purposes as well. In iOS 9 and 10, cookies and other website data are shared with Safari--but not in iOS 11 and later.

In-app browser

WKWebView is an in-app browser that displays web content. It doesn't share cookies or web site data with other WKWebView instances, or with the Safari browser. WKWebView is a cross-platform browser that is available for both iOS and macOS.

The browser you use impacts the SSO experience because of how they share cookies. The following tables summarize the SSO experiences per browser.

Technology Browser Type iOS availability macOS availability Shares cookies and other data MSAL availability SSO
ASWebAuthenticationSession System iOS12 and up macOS 10.15 and up Yes iOS and macOS 10.15+ w/ Safari instances
SFAuthenticationSession System iOS11 and up N/A Yes iOS only w/ Safari instances
SFSafariViewController System iOS11 and up N/A No iOS only No**
SFSafariViewController System iOS10 N/A Yes iOS only w/ Safari instances
WKWebView In-app iOS8 and up macOS 10.10 and up No iOS and macOS No**

** For SSO to work, tokens need to be shared between apps. This requires a token cache, or broker application, such as Microsoft Authenticator for iOS.

Change the default browser for the request

You can use an in-app browser, or a specific system browser depending on your UX requirements, by changing the following property in MSALWebviewParameters:

@property (nonatomic) MSALWebviewType webviewType;

Change per interactive request

Each request can be configured to override the default browser by changing the MSALInteractiveTokenParameters.webviewParameters.webviewType property before passing it to the acquireTokenWithParameters:completionBlock: API.

Additionally, MSAL supports passing in a custom WKWebView by setting the MSALInteractiveTokenParameters.webviewParameters.customWebView property.

For example:


UIViewController *myParentController = ...;
WKWebView *myCustomWebView = ...;
MSALWebviewParameters *webViewParameters = [[MSALWebviewParameters alloc] initWithAuthPresentationViewController:myParentController];
webViewParameters.webviewType = MSALWebviewTypeWKWebView;
webViewParameters.customWebview = myCustomWebView;
MSALInteractiveTokenParameters *interactiveParameters = [[MSALInteractiveTokenParameters alloc] initWithScopes:@[@"myscope"] webviewParameters:webViewParameters];
[app acquireTokenWithParameters:interactiveParameters completionBlock:completionBlock];


let myParentController: UIViewController = ...
let myCustomWebView: WKWebView = ...
let webViewParameters = MSALWebviewParameters(authPresentationViewController: myParentController)
webViewParameters.webviewType = MSALWebviewType.wkWebView
webViewParameters.customWebview = myCustomWebView
let interactiveParameters = MSALInteractiveTokenParameters(scopes: ["myscope"], webviewParameters: webViewParameters)

app.acquireToken(with: interactiveParameters, completionBlock: completionBlock)

If you use a custom webview, notifications are used to indicate the status of the web content being displayed, such as:

/*! Fired at the start of a resource load in the webview. The URL of the load, if available, will be in the @"url" key in the userInfo dictionary */
extern NSString *MSALWebAuthDidStartLoadNotification;

/*! Fired when a resource finishes loading in the webview. */
extern NSString *MSALWebAuthDidFinishLoadNotification;

/*! Fired when web authentication fails due to reasons originating from the network. Look at the @"error" key in the userInfo dictionary for more details.*/
extern NSString *MSALWebAuthDidFailNotification;

/*! Fired when authentication finishes */
extern NSString *MSALWebAuthDidCompleteNotification;

/*! Fired before ADAL invokes the broker app */
extern NSString *MSALWebAuthWillSwitchToBrokerApp;


All MSAL supported web browser types are declared in the MSALWebviewType enum

typedef NS_ENUM(NSInteger, MSALWebviewType)
     For iOS 11 and up, uses AuthenticationSession (ASWebAuthenticationSession or SFAuthenticationSession).
     For older versions, with AuthenticationSession not being available, uses SafariViewController.
     For macOS 10.15 and above uses ASWebAuthenticationSession
     For older macOS versions uses WKWebView
    /** Use ASWebAuthenticationSession where available.
     On older iOS versions uses SFAuthenticationSession
     Doesn't allow any other webview type, so if either of these are not present, fails the request*/
    /** Use SFSafariViewController for all versions. */
    /** Use WKWebView */

Next steps

Learn more about Authentication flows and application scenarios