Perhaps you’ve run into this issue yourself: you’re happily cruising around the Internet using Internet Explorer 8 or Internet Explorer 9 – most likely in Windows Vista or Windows 7.
Everything seems fine for pretty much every website you hit.
Until you visit a website… like DISNEY.COM… and you are shown a mobile version of their site.
You’re not using a mobile browser. You’re in IE7 or IE8’s “compatibility mode”. You’ve tried it without compatibility mode. You’ve checked your firewall, your antivirus program. You’ve cleared your browser cache, you’ve cleared all your cookies.
There nothing you can see in your computer that’s forcing just one or two websites to show you the mobile site instead of the full web experience – and worse is that even if those mobile sites had links back to “view full site” and you tried those links, you still wouldn’t be able to view the full site as you are redirected back to the mobile view.
First, you can tell that it is not an issue with your computer setup, as using FireFox or a different browser other than Microsoft’s Internet Explorer DOES show you the full website and not the mobile version.
At least that eliminates any firewall or antivirus setup on your computer from blocking your site access.
Which brings us back to how Microsoft and Internet Explorer work, and what websites do to determine the best way to show content to you.
Website programmers have many tools at their disposal to identify the type of browser that’s visiting their site. Using a piece of data that every web browser sends them — the “User Agent” — the website can then present the best view of the content for that browser.
Maybe IE needs a certain piece of CSS to display, while FF doesn’t. The view on an iPhone will be different from one on an Android device that supports Adobe Flash. You get the picture — the website is in control over what gets sent to the browser, based solely on the browser telling the website which browser it is.
You can visit WHAT’S MY USER AGENT to see what information your browser sends to every website you visit. You can see that the information is not very informative about who YOU are, but does say a little bit about your computer and what it can or can’t do in a web browser.
Which brings us back to what DISNEY.COM and some other websites do with this information. Because some web site programmers view PDA’s as mobile devices. A PDA is like a cellphone or an iPad or an Android tablet – it’s just a different, generic name for them. Keep this in mind for moment – we’ll be back to this.
Some computers use CREATIVE LABS soundcards or audio drivers. One of the piece of information that is contained in your Windows Registry is an entry identifying the Creative Labs software being used. Typically it would look like this: Creative AutoUpdate vx.xx.xx. And somewhere along the way, this information — for whatever reason — is getting included in your User Agent string that your browser sends to websites.
Remember when we said that some sites look for whether the browser being used is a PDA?
Those websites are interpretting “AutoUpdate” as being send from a “PDA”. See how “PDA” is part of the word “UPDATE”? Yeah, that’s weird, right? It’s all because of those three letters that you are being shown a mobile site and not the full web version. Hey – computers are only as smart as the people who program them.
So somebody posted this problem to the MICROSOFT MESSAGE BOARDS, and received this answer:
- Using REGEDIT, browse to the following registry key:
HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\5.0\User Agent\Post Platform
- Delete the key value containing “Creative AutoUpdate v.x.xx.xx”
- Exit REGEDIT
Web Watch would like to remind our users that messing with the Windows Registry can cause irreparable harm to your computer if you do not know what you’re doing. Be sure to make a full system backup before doing anything in the registry, we are not responsible for loss of data, you’re completely on your own on this.
But what we can say is that when we did the above on our own computer, the Disney website stopped showing us the mobile view and restored the full version of the website when we visited using Internet Explorer. Sure, we could have just used FireFox or Chrome, but why go through the hassle if we’re already using IE at the time?