Google’s ability to be able to read websites is a big part of its business. After all, searching, scanning, indexing, understanding and ranking are all parts of the company’s largest revenue generator, Google Search. As such, to be able to scan websites from different devices is also a very important aspect for Google as it collects information on websites from different viewpoints. The Search giant looks to achieve this by its web crawler ‘Googlebot’ adopting the form of different devices. For instance, Googlebot adopts the form of a desktop device, a smartphone, a tablet and so on. All with a view to read various web pages from the perspectives of different devices. It essentially does this by changing its ‘user-agent string’.
What is interesting about Googlebot’s smartphone guise is that Googlebot currently adopts the form of an iPhone and has done for awhile. However, that does now seem to be changing as Google has announced that from April 18th, Googlebot will be switching its user-agent string from an iPhone (running on iOS 8.3) to a Google Nexus 5X (running on Android 6.0). Google has noted that this should not really affect anyone and will simply be an under the hood change with 99-percent of websites said to be unaffected by the move. The exception being those that actively look to hide from Googebot.
In terms of why Google is doing this, according to the blog announcement, there are a couple of reasons. The main reason being that the renderer used “can better understand pages that use newer web technologies“, with HTML5 being a prime example. Google further adds that the technology underlying the way in which Googlebot is able to render web pages is one which has evolved to be more like Google’s Chrome than like Apple’s Safari. As mentioned, this is not a change which is likely to affect either users or the websites that Googlebot indexes. However, it is still a change which does have some symbolic meaning as Google’s bot ‘makes the switch‘ from iOS to Android. Those interested in reading more about the change, can do so by heading through the source link below.