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Is the iPad user agent string a problem?

I’ve run into my first real problem with the iPad (well, second if you count the the lack of Flash). The problem is a combination of poor web site design and something called the ‘user agent string’ that browsers send to websites.

When you use Safari on the iPad, it identifies itself to the web site using the following string:

Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; U; CPU OS 3_2 like Mac OS X; en-us) AppleWebKit/531.21.10 (KHTML, like Gecko) Version/4.0.4 Mobile/7B334b Safari/531.21.10

Some websites interpret this as a mobile browser and force you to a mobile (i.e., cut down often text-based) version of the site. This is frustrating, but is made unacceptable when sites don’t provide any mechanism to go to the full version of the site.

I haven’t done enough research to know whether this is an Apple problem (they should use a different browser string) or a web site one (they are interpreting the string incorrectly), or a combination of the two. Regardless, it is a pain!

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