Apple hid Safari development by spoofing Internet Explorer for Mac

Apple is big on secrecy; the company hates it when projects it has been working on for months are leaked well ahead of their planned launch. In January 2003, the late Steve Jobs wanted to make a surprise announcement at MacWorld that Apple was launching its own web browser, Safari.

However, Apple had to also test Safari out by visiting other websites at Apple's headquarters. That meant website operators could look at their logs and see that a previously unknown browser, used by people at Apple, was checking out their site.

In a new blog post, Don Melton, the former head of Apple's Safari team, gives their solution to this problem:

So we hid my cleverly designed Safari user agent string whenever we were at Apple. And I say “my” because that’s actually one of the few pieces of code in Safari and WebKit that I can 1) claim to have designed and 2) is still actually in the source. Thank God my engineering team removed or refactored all my other hacks. I hired good people.

The kicker? Melton states that the user string spoofing they created made it look to website server logs that it was actually Microsoft's Internet Explorer for Mac that was checking out their site, rather than the super secret Safari. In the last six months of Safari's development, the team created a user string for the browser that made it look like Mozilla's Firefox.

While Safari is now the standard web browser for Apple's Mac OS and iOS operating systems, the company recently cut off support for Safari for Windows.

Source: Don Melton blog | Image via Apple

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Apple is big on secrecy; the company hates it when projects it has been working on for months are leaked well ahead of their planned launch

Except for when they "accidentally" leave iPhones laying around in coffee bars...

Everything their employees do is a company decision. If you consider their sales rep rulebook, and what some biographies of Jobs say... "he wasn't afraid of being the guy to tell you that you'd miss your dinner reservation, because you'd be at the office working late, thinking different..."

Leaving a phone at a bar isn't anyone's decision. It is a mistake. I do agree that everything an employee does he is doing on behalf of the company, so an employee mistake is the same as a company mistake. Still, calling it a decision is dumb.

Not sure the point behind your dinner story. If you are making the case that they were overworked, that doesn't change anything. I make mistakes if I don't get enough sleep, it might be a dumb decision to mistreat myself like that, and it might lead to more mistakes, but the mistake is still just a mistake. Over working employees is no different.

sphbecker said,
Leaving a phone at a bar isn't anyone's decision. It is a mistake. I do agree that everything an employee does he is doing on behalf of the company, so an employee mistake is the same as a company mistake. Still, calling it a decision is dumb.

Not sure the point behind your dinner story. If you are making the case that they were overworked, that doesn't change anything. I make mistakes if I don't get enough sleep, it might be a dumb decision to mistreat myself like that, and it might lead to more mistakes, but the mistake is still just a mistake. Over working employees is no different.

I'm sure he's talking about Apple's "secret" policy of leaking information in order to generate hype, in which case he doesn't see the misplacing of the phone as an accident.

Whether or not that's the case in that specific incident i'm not sure, but they've quite obviously done this tons of times previously.

FISKER_Q said,

I'm sure he's talking about Apple's "secret" policy of leaking information in order to generate hype, in which case he doesn't see the misplacing of the phone as an accident.

Whether or not that's the case in that specific incident i'm not sure, but they've quite obviously done this tons of times previously.

That's all true and well, however, I doubt (read: I don't know, but simply think) they would let the whole product slip into ANYone's hands (including potentially a competitor picking it up).

GS:mac

The browser is the most used piece of software on a PC so any new entrant (especially from a major tech company like Apple) you'd want to try and keep it secret to sunrise people.

I remember when Chrome came out and it was so fast it was unbelievable. It really did set some new standards. If people had got wind of it's development before it was announced (with a comic book by all means! https://www.google.com/googlebooks/chrome/ ) then competitors might have started thinking about improvements they could make in their browsers and Google might have lost any advantage they got

Northgrove said,
Percentage-wise, Safari is holding a greater market share among web browsers, than Windows Phone on mobile.

Umm... it also has a greater market share than Valvoline motor oil

Northgrove said,
Percentage-wise, Safari is holding a greater market share among web browsers, than Windows Phone on mobile.

Apple execs compare iPad to laptops of some random company - that is allowed because it puts Apple in the best of light.

Some random person compares sales of Windows to sales of OSX - that is not allowed because it is not fair since apple does not sell their OS seperate from computers, and it makes Apple sales look bad.

But now comparing one company's web browser on desktops, laptops, phones, music players, and tablets to one browser on one specific device and not across all the same places that other company's browser is available - that is good because it shows Apple's is doing great!

Contort and bend the truth, even lie, to try to "prove" Apple is great!

I actually like Safari quite a bit and was saddened to hear about discontinued development for Windows.

The famous John Callahan confusing the hell out of us choosing a title that's nothing like the news article

I could be wrong, but the title seems to perfectly fit the content of the article. The title states that Apple changed Safari's user-agent during development so that it mimicked Internet Explorer for Mac, and the article says just that as well. Where is the confusion?

Either my English is completely wrong but missing the word "as" after spoofing creates a completely different meaning, or is it one of them Americanisms?

AshUK said,
Either my English is completely wrong but missing the word "as" after spoofing creates a completely different meaning, or is it one of them Americanisms?
Even in the USA you would be correct. It seems some journalists aren't aware though.

Safari being the subject, spoofing being the verb, the inclusion of "as" creates a simile, or comparison, and thus alters the interpretation of the verb, and the sentence's meaning.

Roughly interpreted:
"spoofing Internet Explorer" means that IE itself is being misled by Safari.
"spoofing as Internet Explorer" means Safari impersonated IE.

Edited by abecedarian paradoxious, Jan 5 2013, 7:31pm :

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