NY Post Blocks iPad’s Safari Web Browser

Dave Winer reports that the NY Post blocks iPad access to its website when you use the iPad’s standard Safari web browser. The Post wants you to buy its iPad app, which is priced at $1.99 and apparently requires an additional $6.99 for a monthly subscription. In the meantime, the content is free from your computer or from another tablet.

I experimented, and I discovered that if you really, really want to read the NY Post on your iPad, turn JavaScript off in the Safari settings. Commenters to Winer’s post also suggesting using an alternative browser on the iPad.

Winer writes:

The solution is completely obvious. Apple could stop sending back information to the servers that identify me as an iPad user. Or give me a way to edit that information.

So how does the Post know when you’re using an iPad? I assume the Post’s web server is using JavaScript to examine the user agent string communicated by the iPad on each connection. Winer’s proposal is that Apple change the user agent string so that it matches another browser’s.

The user agent reported by Safari on the iPad (wrapping the line so it fits) is

Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; U; CPU OS 4_3_3 like Mac OS X; en-us)
AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko)
Version/5.0.2 Mobile/8J3 Safari/6533.18.5

Apple could change the user agent string to omit mentioning the iPad or allow a user to set an alternative user agent. For example, this is the user agent reported by Safari from my MacBook Pro:

Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; Intel Mac OS X 10_6_7; en-us)
AppleWebKit/533.21.1 (KHTML, like Gecko)
Version/5.0.5 Safari/533.21.1

I tested the Cyberspace web browser on the iPad, and it is (so far) immune to the Post’s redirection. Its user agent is almost identical to the iPad’s but apparently different enough that it isn’t detected.

Mozilla/5.0 (iPad; U; CPU OS 4_3_3 like Mac OS X; en-us)
AppleWebKit/533.17.9 (KHTML, like Gecko)
Mobile/8J3
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