Google Backtracks on Windows Phone Maps Redirect

Google could have avoided the whole fiasco with better communication

By Lucian Parfeni on January 9th, 2013 23:01 GMT

Google has backtracked on its poorly timed and very poorly explained decision to stop supporting Windows Phone on its Google Maps website. Windows Phone users now get the really basic mobile Google Maps website as was the case up until recently.

Not long ago, Google apparently decided it wanted some bad PR just as the FTC decided not to charge it with monopolistic abuses so it started redirecting Windows Phone users away from its Google Maps website.

The website used to work on Windows Phone and was the only option since there was no Google Maps app.

At some point, Google decided the Maps website didn't work as well as before in IE, presumably after adding some new features at least if you buy Google's version of what occurred, so rather than have Windows Phone users deal with a buggy website, it redirected them to the Google homepage.

This is fairly common and plenty of websites, Google included, don't support niche platforms, i.e. operating systems or browsers.

It makes sense not to, the resources, money and employees, used to support these browsers are too great for too little payoff.

It may not be fair to those using the niche browsers, but most websites are a business not a charity, even if they're free or especially if they're free.

Normally, when something like this happens, the people affected are annoyed, they make a fuss, the issue may be picked up by a blog or two and it blows over.

That's probably what Google hoped, but given the tension between Microsoft and Google it should have known better.

It being the first weekend after the holidays, the story got picked up by everyone and blown out of proportion. Google's response didn't make it any better.

At first, it said Google Maps only supported WebKit browsers and that it had always been so.

Obviously, that's false and even if it wasn't, Maps was still working on Firefox for Android and it worked on Windows Phone for the past few years.

Then Google clarified that changes to the Maps website meant it didn't work properly on IE.

Microsoft responded that IE on Windows Phone 8 is the same on Windows 8, which is obviously supported by Google.

That's only partially true, the desktop version of the Google Maps website supports IE10 on Windows 8, but the fuss was over the mobile version.

Google has now removed the redirect, getting the issue over with, for the time being. But it could have all been avoided if Google at least communicated why it employed the redirect in a clear fashion, something it still hasn't.

Windows Phone is still not an "officially" supported platform, so problems like this may happen again. Hopefully, Google will know to handle them better by then.
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