You may or may not realize this, but when you use Gmail on your BlackBerry, they’re doing some tricky things behind the scenes to “improve” your “Gmobile” experience.
For one thing, when you’re reading your Gmail, they strip down the service to its barest essentials: AJAX, tables, selecting… all gone. But unsurprisingly, it remains quite useful (that whole simplicity thing).
Anyway, I discovered an interesting hack along with some serious privacy … concerns … while tooling around with Gmail.
The privacy issue is pretty simple: everything that you visit from Gmail (and this is more or less true whether you’re on Gmail Mobile or the regular version) is tracked by Google. Click on a link in an email from your friend in Gmail? Google knows. One might argue that this is how they improve their service and add relevance to the AdWords that they show you (they already grep your emails to contextualize the ads in the sidebar, so watching the links you click improves the personalized search results you get). Ok, that’s the tradeoff I’m willing to bare in order to receive their free services; I’m not complaining necessarily, just pointing it out because they don’t make it explicit that they track the links that you click.
Now, on to that hack.
I was looking to make dinner reservations last night on the OpenTable website. Tragically they don’t have a mobile-friendly version (still using tables for layout?? gross!) so the experience was… let’s just say, pretty terrible.
But then I remembered! — ah ha! — Google tracks all my surfing habits with their Gmail proxy — but they also reformat all the sites that I visit to be more mobile friendly… So I opened up the Send Address dialog in the BlackBerry browser and sent it off to my Gmail account (which I’ve set up as “me” in my address book).
I opened up my Gmail inbox in the BlackBerry browser and sure enough, visiting the link that I just sent myself took me through the Google proxy to a page that looked like this:
…instead of this.
Sweet! So now whenever you find yourself on a site that’s completely unusable on your mobile device, just prefix the url with this
http://www.google.com/gwt/n?u= and you’ll have a much more usable interface, thanks to Google’s spying proxies!
Bonus: WordPress plugin Bad Behavior will block attempts by proxies like Google’s from being able to access your site. I’ve got it installed and you can see how many Spambots have attempted to access my site in the few days that I’ve had it running!