Tag Archives: Friendster
Originally published in 2009, this post is updated regularly with the latest workarounds for viewing the desktop versions of mobile sites in mobile browsers.
Last update 9-Jul-2013: Added workarounds for Google Calendar, Outlook.com and Techdirt. Updated the Yahoo Mail workaround. Removed the Google Reader workaround because Google Reader has been shut down. Removed Engadget as it no longer has a separate mobile site. Removed Twitter and ESPN workarounds as they don't work any more.
One of the biggest frustrations of using the web with mobile browsers is web sites that force them to use dumbed down mobile versions. I have nothing against mobile sites, obviously. I build them and I write about them here at Wap Review. It's not redirecting mobile browsers to the mobile versions of sites that bothers me. The problem is with mobile sites that lack essential features or content found in the equivalent full web versions and don't offer users an easy way to view the full version. As I've been preaching for years, every mobile site needs to include a Full Version link.
Fortunately many mobile sites now include a link to the full version. For sites that don't it's possible to force the full-web versions of some sites in mobile browsers by using a special URL.
Here's a list of websites where getting to the full version with mobile browsers is harder than it should be along with a workaround. Note that the the ful version may not work well or at all in your mobile browser. But if there's a feature or content you like that's missing from the mobile site, it's worth trying the full version.
Orkut: Has a link to the full version at the bottom of most mobile pages. Or you can go directly to it by using the URL: www.orkut.com/Home.
Yahoo Mail is a special case. us.mc1137.mail.yahoo.com/mc/welcome?ymv=0 loads the full version of Yahoo Mail. The "Basic" version of Yahoo Mail works wells in Opera Mini. However the "New" Yahoo Mail doesn't. Switching back to the basic version also seems to impossible in Opera Mini, you have to find a PC to do it.
- Log into your Yahoo Mail with a PC browser. Click the "Gear" icon at the top right corner of the page and choose options.
- At the bottom of the Options page, under "Advanced - Switch Now" select Basic. Click the Save button.
- Launch your mobile browser and go to us.mc1137.mail.yahoo.com/mc/welcome?ymv=0 and you should be in basic Yahoo Mail..
More full version direct links:
Google Calendar: https://www.google.com/calendar/render?tab=mc
Google News: news.google.com/nwshp?hl=en&tab=wn
Wall Street Journal: online.wsj.com/home-page
Hall of Shame: There are a few sites that stubbornly refuse to let Opera Mini users view their full web version.
- ESPN: No full site link and the workaround that worked for years no longer does.
- Picassaweb and Google+: These two sites are exceptions to Google's generally good job of providing links to the "Classic" non-mobile versions.
- Twitter: recently removed the full site links its mobile version and the old workarounds no longer work.
If you find workarounds for other sites that are blocking mobile users from their full-web versions please leave a comment and I'll add your discoveries to this post.
For problem sites try changing your browser's user agent
Web sites are able to tell that you are using a mobile browser by reading the HTTP User-Agent header that browsers send. Some mobile browsers let you change the User-Agent to spoof the site into thinking your are using a desktop browser. Here are the browsers that I know about that allow changing the User Agent and how to do it.
Android browser: On most Android phones you can enable a hidden UAString menu item by typing about:debug in the URL bar and pressing Enter. Nothing will seem to change but if you go to Settings and scroll all the way to the bottom you'll see the UASting option. It lets you choose between an Android, Desktop, iPhone or iPad User-Agent
Opera Mobile on Symbian and Android: A User Agent option in the Advanced Settings menu lets you choose between mobile and desktop versions.
UC Browser: Most versions have a User Agent option in the Settings or Settings > Network menu. In some versions it's labeled "Website Preference".
Yesterday I wrote about Friendster's redesigned mobile site. It's generally pretty good except for one major usability issue. The problem is that Friendster is forcing all mobile browsers to use the mobile site, even "full-web" browsers like Opera Mini and Nokia Webkit which can easily handle the full version of Friendster.
Several Opera Mini using Friendster members were upset enough about this to complain on the Opera Mini support forum at MyOpera.com. Today Opera answered their complaints in a rather surprising way. Opera made a server upgrade that solved the problem. If you go to Friendster.com now with Opera mini, you will see the full web version of Friendster. If you prefer the mobile edition, just go to m.friendster.com.
So how did Opera accomplish this? I don't really know and Opera hasn't said but I'd be willing to bet that they are sending a desktop User Agent header instead of the normmal Opera Mini one if the request is going to the friendster.com domain. This is great for Friendster users and another demonstration of the incredible support Opera gives to the users of it's free Opera Mini product. This is not the first time Opera has tweaked something to work around an issue that effects relatively few users. They've sent engineers to the US to get Mini working on the Sprint and Nextel networks and worked around model specific handset bugs to give landscape support to the old Samsung A900/920 and many similar fixes based on requests from a few users.
I do have mixed feelings about User Agent spoofing, though. Opera is a company that's very serious about web standards. There have been a number of requests from users on the forum asking Opera to change Mini's User Agent to a desktop one so that sites wouldn't be tempted to force the mobile version like Friendster does. These requests have always be refused with the explanation that Opera doesn't believe in spoofing sites into believing that Opera Mini is anything but Opera Mini. This is understandable, Opera rightly wants Mini's true market share to be reflected in web statistics. More importantly, the User Agent is intended to identify the browser, changing it to make badly designed web sites work the way they should, while appreciated by users, does nothing to solve the larger problem of site designers blocking access to content on the basis of what browser is being used. I suspect that Opera contacted Friendster and tried to get them to treat Mini like a full web browser and only after that failed implemented the User Agent workaround.
Other changes in the Opera Mini server update (from the Opera Mini Blog):
- Added more country-specific default feeds. Will only show up on new installations.
- Added onClick events to the SVG support.
- Fixed compatibility with Outlook Web Access.
- JAD files can now only be opened, not saved.
- Improved support for radio buttons with onFocus attributes. This fixed problems with logging in to at least one site.
- Added a workaround to get to the desktop version of Friendster.
Because it's a server upgrade, no downloads are needed, just fire up Opera Mini and enjoy.