Friday, November 04, 2016

Apple macOS geolocation in Safari stops working on many websites.

Since upgrading to the latest version of the macOS on my MacBook Air, I noticed a number of my sites which use location facilities stopped working in the Safari browser. This had been true of Google's Chrome, but not Safari.

The reason is there appears separate from the HTML5 standard, which provides location facilities for browser sites, for a push by some browser manufacturers to only provide geolocation facilities if the site being accessed is a secure site, that is running SSL. 

In a way this is probably good, but as a developer it means there's an additional cost for each site such that many of the sites I now provide as a service for others, become financially unviable.

The other issue is there are many thousands upon thousands of sites that use geolocation features and these will not work and the average person won't know why. Up until now to protect people's security the standard as I read them, meant people had to be prompted if they wished to share their location with a web site. This is now being further restricted by the browser. The problem is this browser restriction is a waste of time for products like the MacBook Air since the only location information is the IP address to estimate location and that is still available. The change effectively achieves nothing, but reduces the functionality of web based applications. For mobile devices which show close to the exact location, this is a different matter.

For those wishing to use websites on a MacBook Air, there's a couple of choices. If you're lucky enough to have Windows 10 also installed, you can use Internet Explorer or the Edge browser. Simply turn on the location option to use your IP address to estimate your location in Windows 10. The other option is to install Firefox. Normally I'd not recommend or suggest Firefox, but in this case it does solve a problem and that means it's a viable option.

It would be good if the developers of the desktop browsers provide the option to enable the user to decide if they wanted to use location services with sites that don't use SSL, (people are still promoted before they share their location) but unfortunately this trend to decide everything for us restricts our options and the usefulness of our computers. Windows 10 combined with Internet Explorer or the Edge browser do work in the way I'd prefer as does Firefox. Google Chrome and now more recently Apple Safari under macOS do not.

Kelvin Eldridge

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