Googlebot ditches iPhone disguise to become an Android

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See ya, Safari! Photo: Killian Bell/Cult of Android

Googlebot, the giant webcrawler that Google uses to scan webpages and update its index, is ditching its iPhone disguise to become an Android.

Rather ironically, the tool has been masquerading as an Apple device running iOS 8.3 for years, but it will soon become a Nexus 5X running Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow to become more efficient.

Googlebot fakes its identity to test the performance of websites when they’re viewed on different devices, like laptops, tablets, and smartphones. On April 18, its smartphone identity will change to a Nexus 5X to “better understand pages that use newer web technologies.”

“Our renderer evolves over time and the user-agent string indicates that that it is becoming more similar to Chrome than Safari,” Google explains. “Our evaluation suggests that this user-agent change should have no effect on 99% of sites.”

The only sites that will be affected by this change are those that specifically look for Googlebot’s agent strings in an attempt to cloak themselves. But Google says this is not recommended, and that Googlebot should be treated like any other web browser.

For users, then, it’s highly unlikely you’ll notice this change. If anything, it just means Google Search will become event more efficient, thanks to better handling of new technologies like HTML5. But it’s somewhat strange to think Googlebot has been posing as an iPhone for years.