How to Load Desktop Web Sites and Pages Without Content Blockers in iOS

posted in: September 2018 | 0

NYC ads with a reload button superimposedPhoto by Cris Tagupaon Unsplash

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TipBITS: How to Load Desktop Web Sites and Pages Without Content Blockers in iOS

Generally speaking, when you’re browsing the Web in Safari on an iPhone or iPad, mobile Web sites and content blockers are good things. Mobile Web sites reformat site content so it’s more readable and navigable on a small screen and content blockers remove ads that can make the reading experience painful.

However, neither is perfect. To make Web sites display well on an iPhone, Web designers sometimes hide content or even remove functionality, reasoning that it’s too difficult to provide a usable interface in such a small space. Most of the time, that’s a good call. But it’s not impossible that you would run across a mobile site that has lost content or capabilities that you know exist in the desktop version of the site. Or the mobile site may simply be coded badly. The solution is to switch to the desktop version of the site, if possible.

Screenshots showing the difference between Wikipedia’s mobile and desktop sites.
Wikipedia’s mobile site (left), compared to its desktop site (right).

Similarly, content blockers usually work as advertised, eliminating ads, trackers, and other bits of Web technology. Those things can slow performance, detract from the reading experience, and impinge on your privacy. Sometimes, however, content blockers can render a site non-functional or even incomprehensible by blocking third-party services necessary for the site to display or work correctly. Disabling the content blocker will solve the problem, but it’s a lot of work to do that for a single site and then turn it back on.

Apple’s engineers anticipated both of these problems in iOS and provided a pair of useful options that appear when you press and hold the reload button: Request Desktop Site and Reload Without Content Blockers.

Screenshot showing buttons for requesting desktop site and reloading the page without content blockers enabled.
Press the reload button until Safari displays the options for reloading the page.

Both attempt to do what their names say, although the results may not be what you want:

  • Many sites won’t show the desktop site regardless, in some cases because the mobile site is responsive, and is just resizing itself to the smaller screen size dynamically.
  • Safari may maintain access to the desktop site as you browse the site, or it may not.
  • Even if Safari disables content blockers for the subsequent page load, ads or other blocked content may not be causing the display or functionality problem you’re trying to solve.

Even if neither option is necessarily always satisfying, it’s good to know they exist and may help you use a site that isn’t working as expected on your iPhone or iPad.