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In a rather amusing change, Microsoft has decided to make their Windows Phone user-agent identify as Apple’s iPhone Safari browser. Essentially, browser communicate with webpages using a special identifier to tell the servers what kind of browser they are using. This is how websites distinguish between desktop and mobile versions of sites. However, because Microsoft’s browser is so insignificant in terms of market share, most websites simply ignore their specific user-agent entirely, and serve unoptimised desktop pages.

As a result, in Windows Phone 8.1, Microsoft will fake its user agent as iPhone Safari, so that webpages return mobile friendly copies to Windows Phone users. The tables have certainly turned from a decade ago, when developers would go out of their way to support Internet Explorer’s non-standard way of doing things.

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13 Responses to “Windows Phone browser resorts to masquerading as iOS Safari to fix website issues”

  1. That’s too funny. Things are si bad with Windows Phone, that it has to make its browser look like a competing platform to the outside world. I wonder where exactly Windows Phone went wrong? As it stands, they have a terrible app and accessory ecosystem, and have managed to alienate most developers to the point that they think of developing for Windows Phone as a waste of time.

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    • Drew, have you actually used a Windows Phone?

      If you look at the image of the twitter website all this change is essentially doing is removing a ‘desktop like’ experience in your mobile browser and simplifying it to one that is supposedly ‘more preferred’ for mobile users.

      I prefer the image on the left and am disappointed by the change. With this update you lose 90% of the information that was available to you when simply browsing to the website.

      I don’t have this update as yet and honestly couldn’t name a website that I have had issues with. I avoid IE on my desktop at all costs, but have several times had to resort to IE instead of firefox to view websites.

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      • take another look, both site addresses are mobile, neither are the desktop version. Also, mobile versions are intended to be optimized for a smaller screen size, and don’t exist unless the CSS is coded specifically to better suit that screen (that’s the point of the browser identifying itself, so that optimized CSS can be loaded for that device). If you want to view the desktop site that’s still an option, as it always had been with whatever browser you’re using.

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  2. Miles Halter says:

    What a terrible idea. It’s not a webkit browser. Mobile IE is full of it’s own crappy standards that are not respected. It’s gonna make the user experience so much worse on mobile.

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  3. prolango says:

    Awesome; especially when Ballmer said that iPhones were too expensive and nobody would buy them. :-)

    I’m glad I stopped working for that company.

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  4. Honestly, does this point to something being wrong with Windows Phone. It may be amusing, but if I works then what’s the issue? If I had a tiny market share that most developers haven’t optimized for I’d make my product compatible with the big guys too – wouldn’t you?

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    • It’s funny because it’s Microsoft. They’re so incredibly massive in the desktop space that it makes their mobile offering appear all the more pathetic. They really took their time getting something out there and messed up the first go (which was already WELL over due) to make another two. In WP6.5, then WP7… then WP8 being a total reboot.

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      • fusiontv1 says:

        Microsoft market share regarding PC space is shrinking by roughly 5-10% every year.
        Those that remain and are getting more stronger are mainly OS X and GNU/Linux.
        Infact I doubt you’ll find many of at all any Windows Desktop PC’s within the next 5-10years.

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    • Strategically, it’s a good move. Safari used similar tactics (using the ‘Mozilla’ keyword when Firefox was dominant). At no point, did I say it was wrong for Microsoft to do this — just that it is funny.

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      • I totally agree Benjamin. I appreciate you clarifying this. It is apparent from the responses (including mine) that while you stated it was amusing there was an implication that it was a negative.

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  5. Apple should have Siri tell MS Window Phone’s Cortana. I’m sure she’d be interested in what a real smart phone’s web browser can do!

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  6. Anthony Main says:

    Thanks MS, we have now come across this problem from a development perspective as we cannot identify the device in the same way, so going to have to refactor our App distribution framework in order to support Windows Phones again going forwards!

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