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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