Mobile Web Compatibility Aug 10, 2012 – Google, YouTube, User Agents

Here’s what’s new in mobile Web compatibility this week.

Site testing and outreach

Google updated a number of their mobile sites this week to recognize Firefox for Android. First off, thanks to Google for making the effort to improve the experience of their sites – and they have definitely improved – in Firefox. As shown below, the Google content does still differ between Firefox and the Android stock browser. Even with the recent improvements, we would like to understand why the content differs. Are there Gecko limitations? Are there significant differences when coding for Webkit and Gecko? More investigation to come.

YouTube videos do not currently play on Firefox OS. On Android, Firefox kicks out to the YouTube app in order to play videos. At this point there is no standalone YouTube app on Firefox OS. However, Firefox OS does support H.264 encoded content, which means that we should be able to play YouTube videos natively on this platform. Jason Smith is following up on this issue for QA. I expect to have a better idea of the direction that we need to take to get YouTube working on Firefox OS shortly.

Community member r.brommauer reported that the Welt (according to Alexa, the 33rd most popular site in Germany) mobile site,, is broken in Firefox for Android. Browsing to in Firefox results in the desktop site being displayed. However, browsing directly to the mobile site results in an XML parsing error. As Aaron notes in the bug, it appears as though this is another user agent (UA) sniffing issue.

User agents

Aaron reran his screenshot analysis with the Firefox for Android UA, the Firefox OS UA, and a previously proposed Firefox OS UA that includes the “like Android” token:

Mozilla/5.0 (Gonk, like Android; Mobile; rv:12.0) Gecko/12.0 Firefox/12.0

As the results show, including “like Android” in the UA results in an improvement in the number of sites serving mobile content to Firefox OS. Notable sites that serve mobile content when using this UA include Google, YouTube, Bing, Yahoo, Amazon, MSN, and eBay. Aaron’s results are being discussed on the dev-b2g list.

As I mentioned last week, there was a discussion on the dev-platform list about whether the Firefox for Android tablet UA should follow the Internet Explorer 10 model and use “Touch” instead of “Tablet”. As reported in the forum and in the related bug, the result of the discussion is that there will be no change to the Firefox for Android tablet UA.


About Lawrence Mandel

Firefox program manager
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