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The strange case of 'Made for iPhone' websites

Scott McNulty

Apple trumpets the iPhone as bringing the 'real internet' to your pocket. This ain't no watered down Internet, says Apple (though Apple tends to avoid the use of double negatives). It is true that the iPhone version of Safari, dubbed MobileSafari by some, is a fully featured browser (with the exception of plugins, but who uses those anymore? Oh, right.) and can render lots and lots of the web just fine, thank you. Despite this fact, iPhonified websites are booming. Oddly, instead of using the iPhone to browse the 'real internet' users are pointing MobileSafari to more and more iPhone specific websites (which smack of the 'mobile web' to me). What's the deal with that?

Furthermore, I find it odd that many of these iPhone specific apps are not only being embraced by the Mac community, but being created by some heavyweights in the web design arena. Why do I find this odd? I seem to recall that for many years the Mac community bemoaned the practice of designing web apps that only worked in a particular web browser (like, say IE6 for Windows). This painful practice has found new life in the form of iPhone-only apps. Nothing irks me more than browsing to a site only to be greeted with a page that, based on the user agent my browser supplies, keeps me out. Try going to some of these new iPhone webapps in Safari 3 on a Mac or PC and that's just what you'll encounter. Why? These apps will run just fine on my desktop, and yet I am left out of the fun. (Why would anyone want to browse lightweight pages on their computer, you ask? Being a member of the AOL family, one reason springs to mind immediately: dial-up users).

Is this a double standard -- bad if it hurts Mac users, but just fine if it works on Apple's new gizmo? Do Mac users have short memories? I don't have the answers, but I think these are questions worthy of thought. Am I the only one?

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