A brouhaha erupted over the weekend when it was discovered that Windows Phone 8 users could not access Google Maps via their Internet Explorer browsers in desktop or mobile view and instead were being redirected from maps.google.com to Google's homepage. (Meanwhile, PC users have had no problem using IE to access Google Maps.)
Google initially denied any nefarious intentions, but later acknowledged disallowing access because it didn't think the Windows Phone browser experience was up to snuff (and that Microsoft's browser doesn't support the WebKit rendering engine that browsers from Google and others use). Here's a statement Google sent to The Next Web:
We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users.
In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, we chose to continue to redirect IE mobile users to Google.com where they could at least make local searches. The Firefox mobile browser did offer a somewhat better user experience and that's why there is no redirect for those users.
Recent improvements to IE mobile and Google Maps now deliver a better experience and we are currently working to remove the redirect. We will continue to test Google Maps compatibility with other mobile browsers to ensure the best possible experience for users.
Rather than waiting for Google to fix things, however, at least one Microsoft employee took matters into his own hands and shared the results in the YouTube video below on Jan. 5. After playing around with various approaches, Microsoft's Matthias Shapiro said the unconventional move of misspelling Windows Phone somehow did the trick. "That's odd. That's kind of like Google blocked Windows Phone from its browser for arbitrary, vindictive reasons. Huh."
Meanwhile, Web watchers, like those at Mashable, have pointed out that Google's anti-WebKit stance has also made it so that browsers from Meego and Symbian get the same redirect treatment that Windows Phone mobile users get. And search engine expert Danny Sullivan said the Google approach didn't happen overnight -- it's just that people recently noticed the issue, possibly because they were actually redirected to Microsoft Bing maps that don't look all that different from Google ones.
Bob Brown tracks network research in his Alpha Doggs blog and Facebook page, as well on Twitter and Google +.
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