How Safari Pretended to Be Mozilla Before It Was Released

Friday January 4, 2013 8:07 AM PST by Jordan Golson
NewImageFormer Apple employee Don Melton is sharing a unique look behind the scenes of the Safari development team. Melton was the team leader on both the Safari and WebKit products that are now used by millions of users on both iOS, the Mac, and Windows.

Previously, Melton explained how the Safari name came about, but today he shares the tale of Safari's User Agent string and the strategies his team used to keep the project under wraps.
Twitter and Facebook didn’t exist then. Nobody at Apple was stupid enough to blog about work, so what was I worried about?

Server logs. They scared the hell out of me.

When a Web browser fetches a page from a Web server, the browser identifies itself to that server with a user agent string — basically its name, version, platform, etc. The browser also gives the server an IP address so the server knows where to return the page. This exchange not only makes the Web work, it also allows the server to tell who is using what browser and where they’re using it.

You can see where this is going, right? But wait, there’s more…

Back around 1990, some forward-thinking IT person secured for Apple an entire Class A network of IP addresses. That’s right, Apple has 16,777,216 static IP addresses. And because all of these addresses belong together — in what’s now called a “/8 block” — every one of them starts with the same number. In Apple’s case, the number is 17.

IP address 17.149.160.49? That’s Apple. 17.1.2.3? Yes, Apple. 17.18.19.20? Also, Apple. 17.253.254.255? Apple, dammit!

I was so screwed.
Melton's blog has the rest of the details about how his team kept things quiet before the big reveal.

Top Rated Comments

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25 months ago
So, he hid Safari as being Mozilla, by changing the user agent string. MAN THIS IS ONE HELL OF A FASCINATING REVEAL

Also, Safari is the best browser out there now, but I am going to go out on a limb and say that there was nobody in the industry that cared when it was released except the Apple fans
Rating: 20 Votes
25 months ago
THIS is why I love Apple. Just a bunch of geeks running a company. Now I Cant say Mr. Cook is much of a geek. But the ones who do everything to run apple, are.
Rating: 11 Votes
25 months ago
I like how the MR article mentions "Mozilla" nowhere except for the title. Reading the MR article itself doesn't tell you at all that they masked Safari as any Mozilla product. That's some quality writing right there!
Rating: 11 Votes
25 months ago
It´s interesting the fact that he says Scott Forstall was a great boss.
Rating: 10 Votes
25 months ago
Safari was a pain in the neck in it's early versions before becoming the gold standard in Mac web browsers. I've been a Safari advocate for years now.

Version 6, however, is infuriating. The reload-on-back behavior is unacceptable. I use the trackpad or Magic Mouse to swipe back a page, and the animation looks great, but the fact that it forces a reload of the page, delays me while it reloads, and often puts me at the top of the page is a real detractor. I'm trying to deal with it until something changes, but I may need to hop ship to an inferior browser if this basic functionality is not addressed.
Rating: 9 Votes
25 months ago

It has been common knowledge that apple owns the 17 class A block since forever. This is not a new revelation for those of us who have been apple followers for 20+ years.


You need to learn what "common knowledge" means :rolleyes:
Rating: 8 Votes
25 months ago

So now if anyone looks their server logs and see a 17 in the IP at the beginning, they know it is a good chance of it being Apple!

Tim Cook is sure doubling up on secrecy! :eek:


It has been common knowledge that apple owns the 17 class A block since forever. This is not a new revelation for those of us who have been apple followers for 20+ years.
Rating: 6 Votes
25 months ago

Is this common enough for you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assigned_/8_IPv4_address_blocks


You dont get it do you.

Definition of common knowledge:

anything generally known to everyone.


No. No. Its not common knowledge. It may be common knowledge in a niche group of people who study the ins and outs of who owns what IP blocks, but to the average 'Joe' it is not, never has been, and will never be common knowledge.

Get it now?

It'd be like me saying "It's common knowledge that Titanium Mobile has problems working with large SQLite databases". It's common knowledge to a Titanium Mobile developer, but not to anyone else. This is the same situation.
Rating: 6 Votes
25 months ago

You need to learn what "common knowledge" means :rolleyes:


Is this common enough for you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_assigned_/8_IPv4_address_blocks
Rating: 5 Votes
25 months ago

Back around 1990, some forward-thinking IT person secured for Apple an entire Class A network of IP addresses. That's right, Apple has 16,777,216 static IP addresses. And because all of these addresses belong together -- in what's now called a "/8 block" -- every one of them starts with the same number. In Apple's case, the number is 17.


That forward thinking IT person was me. :-) I managed the internal address space for Apple before the internet became the internet. We used an invalid network number (well, a public address that we didn't own) and when it came time to join the internet, we had to get a real number.

NAT didn't really exist at the time, so I justified the address space by calculating how many computers we had, our average subnet size, and showed that only a "Class-A" network (/8 in CIDR notation) could possibly work.

At first Joyce Reynolds (the amazing and now famous numbering mistress at USC's ISI) assigned us 21, which belonged to the military. After a few sweetly apologetic emails, she assigned us 17.

I joked with her that we went from being old enough to drink, to being a teenager.

I left Apple in 1993.

-JJJB
Rating: 5 Votes

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