Originally published in 2009, this post is updated regularly with the latest workarounds for viewing the desktop versions of mobile sites in mobile browsers.
Last update 30-Jan-2012: Added Gmail and Google Reader workarounds. Updated Yahoo Mail, Facebook, MySpace and Orkut workarounds. Removed broken workarounds for CNN, MSN and Friendster. Removed Newsweek because it no longer has a mobile site so no workaround is needed.
One of the biggest frustrations of using the web with mobile browsers is web sites that force them to use dumbed down mobile versions. I have nothing against mobile sites, obviously. I build them and I write about them here at Wap Review. It's not redirecting mobile browsers to the mobile versions of sites that bothers me. The problem is with mobile sites that lack essential features or content found in the equivalent full web versions and don't offer users an easy way to view the full version. As I've been preaching for years, every mobile site needs to include a Full Version link.
Fortunately many mobile sites now include a link to the full version. For sites that don't it's possible to force the full-web versions of some sites in mobile browsers by using a special URL.
Here's a list of websites where getting to the full version with mobile browsers is harder than it should be along with a workaround. Note that the the ful version may not work well or at all in your mobile browser. But if there's a feature or content you like that's missing from the mobile site, it's worth trying the full version.
Orkut: Has a link to the full version at the bottom of most mobile pages. Or you can go directly to it by using the URL: www.orkut.com/Home.
MySpace: In the iPhone and Android browsers there's a Full Site link on the MySpace Settings page. It's missing in Opera Mini and many other mobile browsers. No problem, just use www.myspace.com/?ucm=true to get to the full version in any browser.
The Yahoo homepage: use yahoo.com/?m=1 to open the desktop version
Yahoo Mail is a special case. us.mc1137.mail.yahoo.com/mc/welcome?ymv=0 loads the full version of Yahoo Mail but only if you haven't upgraded to the "New" version of Yahoo Mail. Switching to the new mail seems to set a flag that forces the mobile version of mail in nost mobile browsers. You must switch back to Classic Yahoo mail in order to restore mobile access. There doesn't seem to be anyway to switch back using a mobile browser, you have to find a PC to do it.
- Go into Yahoo Mail with a PC browser. Click the "Mail Classic" link at the top of the page and switch to Classic Mail.
- Launch your mobile browser and go to us.mc1137.mail.yahoo.com/mc/welcome?ymv=0 and you should be in Mail Classic.
- The key thing is that you must switch your account to use Mail Classic. You need to use a PC browser to make that switch. There doesn't seem to be any way to use the "New" Yahoo Mail on your PC and the Classic version on your phone.
More full version direct links:
Google News: news.google.com/nwshp?hl=en&tab=wn
Google Reader: www.google.com/reader/view/
Wall Street Journal: online.wsj.com/home-page
Hall of Shame: There are a few sites that stubbornly refuse to let Opera Mini users view their full web version.
- Microsoft: Is the worst offender. Just about all Microsoft sites including Hotmail, MSN and Skydrive force mobile users to a limited mobile version with no known workaround.
- Picassaweb and iGoogle: These two sites are exceptions to Google's generally good job of providing links to the "Classic" non-mobile versions.
If you find workarounds for other sites that are blocking mobile users from their full-web versions please leave a comment and I'll add your discoveries to this post.
For problem sites try changing your browser's user agent
Web sites are able to tell that you are using a mobile browser by reading the HTTP User-Agent header that browsers send. Some mobile browsers let you change the User-Agent to spoof the site into thinking your are using a desktop browser. Here are the browsers that I know about that allow changing the User Agent and how to do it.
Android browser: On most Android phones you can enable a hidden UAString menu item by typing about:debug in the URL bar and pressing Enter. Nothing will seem to change but if you go to Settings and scroll all the way to the bottom you'll see the UASting option. It lets you choose between an Android, Desktop, iPhone or iPad User-Agent
Opera Mobile 11.50 on Symbian and Android: A User Agent option in the Advanced Settings menu lets you choose between mobile and desktop versions.
UC Browser: Java and Symbian 8.0 versions have User Agent option in the Settings (Java) or Settings > Preferences > Network (Symbian) menu.