Windows Phone users started reporting yesterday that they could no longer access Google Maps. They were instead redirected to Google’s mobile search page. Initial suspicions ranged from some sort of technical issue to Google willfully blocking access. When Google initially responded, it explained that Google Maps was optimized for WebKit browsers and that other browsers such as Internet Explorer would not be able to access it. Confronted by howls of protest and proof that this was a new development rather than something that had always been true, it appears to have changed its tune somewhat.
Google today issued the following statement to The Next Web:
We periodically test Google Maps compatibility with mobile browsers to make sure we deliver the best experience for those users.
In our last test, IE mobile still did not offer a good maps experience with no ability to pan or zoom and perform basic map functionality. As a result, 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’s why there is no redirect for those users.
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.
As Google points out, the version of Internet Explorer found in Windows Phone 8 handles the Google Maps much better and it will remove the redirect it has put in place.
Google is well within its rights to decide to support or not support non-Webkit browsers. But it should have been more transparent about its recent decision to redirect IE traffic to its main search page. The move follows Google’s recent decisions to stop supporting Microsoft ActiveSync and statements that it had no plans to develop Windows Phone version of its apps.
Read more: The Next Web