Just a day after Google managed to avoid punishment from the FTC for claims of anti-competitive behaviour, the company has been actively blocking Windows Phone users from accessing its mapping services. Users typing maps.google.com into their browser are automatically redirected to google.com, with no way to access the service.
It is unclear whether Google is doing this intentionally, however, given the timing of this and the fact that Google has previous when it comes to shafting Windows Phone users, the coincidence is unlikely.
Google has stated that it will not be building Windows Phone applications, is preventing users from fully accessing YouTube and is killing off Exchange ActiveSync (EAS) support for free Gmail accounts. Some say that Google wants to avoid paying licensing fees to Microsoft for EAS, but since the company plans to keep Google Sync fully supported for Google Apps for Business, Government, and Education, they are in fact really going after Windows Phone users.
This move by Google harms consumers, and is another addition to a long list of anti competitive practices that they continually get away with. Hopefully, there will be a big backlash against Google for this move and hopefully, this wont be the start of corporations harming consumers for their own ends.
Turns out it is definitely a deliberate move by Google. They state: “The mobile web version of Google Maps is optimized for WebKit browsers such as Chrome and Safari. However, since Internet Explorer is not a WebKit browser, Windows Phone devices are not able to access Google Maps for the mobile web.”
This is terrible for internet users and harks back to the days of IE6. Google are effectively trying to make Webkit browsers the de facto standard, rather than just supporting web standards. So much for an open web. Additionally, if you change the user string on WP, you can access the maps and performance is just fine. The browser on windows phone, is remarkably similar to the desktop version of IE, which is actually pretty good at complying to W3C standards.
Google has decided to backtrack. They now say they are working on restoring access for Windows Phone users.
“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.”
While this is a good move by Google to reverse their earlier stance, it does raise some concerning questions. Firstly, what improvements to mobile IE? There haven’t been any, it has always been able to pan and zoom. Secondly, this statement contradicts their earlier one which implied IE wasn’t working because it wasn’t a Webkit browser. This one says that they specifically targeted IE. Not good for consumers.
Hopefully this won’t be a new tend that sees Google block anything they don’t like, otherwise that all clear from the FTC is looking a tad premature.
Thanks for reading,
the better twin.