Mountain View, California — Over the weekend, an unethical controversy erupted after users reported that attempts to access Google Maps on Windows Phone devices led to redirects to the Google homepage. Google confirmed the redirect on Friday, and said it will be “soon” removing the block on its Maps service for Windows Phone handsets using the Internet Explorer browser.
This problem was attributed to poor maps experience on Microsoft’s mobile by the search giant. Currently, anyone desiring to venture Google Maps mobile site through the built-in Microsoft browser is redirected to the Google.com homepage, allowing them to, at least, use Google’s local services.
The search giant had claimed that Google Maps was not as compatible with IE as it is with Chrome, the default Android browser, the Firefox mobile browser and, of course Apple’s Safari browser.
The problem came to light when Windows Phone users were redirected to google.com on their phones while they were trying to access the mobile web based version of Google maps. But Google maintained silence earlier, but now the company has made somewhat of a u-turn and said in order to provide the best experience on the mobile version of Internet Explorer the redirect was necessary.
As such, Internet Explorer for Windows Phone employs the Trident rendering engine and not WebKit, Google Maps would not load on that browser. The unspoken message was that Windows Phone was incapable of properly rendering Google Maps in its web browser.
However, additional user tests have shown that Google Maps for mobile operates just fine in Internet Explorer for Windows Phone. As a result of this controversy, Google has taken a closer look at the capabilities of Internet Explorer on mobile.
Following the controversy, Google issued a statement saying, “We occasionally test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users.” But Google’s explanation did not add up according to some media reports because Webkit is not used by Firefox, but Google maps were accessible on Mozilla’s mobile browser. Google did not offer a redirect on Firefox mobile because user experience offered here was better than IE.
“In our last test, Internet Explorer mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. Hence, 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 is why there is no redirect for those users.”
Anyways, “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,” said Google.
Nonetheless, numerous people on the interwebs were glad Google decided to re-evaluate its decision to redirect Windows Phone users away from Google Maps for mobile. It is the right thing to do — both for users and for web standards.