Soooooo Bolt pissed me off. They claim that they support requesting rides without an app. They provide many good reasons why and when such an option is not only convenient, but necessary:

blog.bolt.eu/en/how-to-request

1/

So far, so good! I always refuse to use services that only work with an app, so this looked promising. One omission from the list of reasons was "Not wanting to contribute to strenghtening Apple and Google duopoly", but ok.

I go to the web app, enter my phone number, enter the SMS code and I'm immediately greeted with this beauty:

2/

I needed some way to get to the Airport in Riga. Everyone recommended Bolt and shared horror stories of "traditional taxis".

Fortunately I expected that this web interface business would be too good to be true, so I checked it the night before the flight.

I checked various different pickup locations around the city. None worked. I tried different countries. Poland: nope. Norway: nope. But.... it works in Nigeria?

In fact, I can order a ride without any issues

3/

Sooo, this got me thinking. Can I trick it into submission and let me order through the web interface? Short answer: yes!

I messed around with the Network Inspector and tried making various changes in the HTTP requests being made to the API by the web interface. After 10 minutes I found out that if you skip a certain query parameter for one of the crucial endpoints, but keep other ones unchanged, the API ignores this artificial geo-block.

4/

(I'm not going to share the particular details on which request and which query parameter that is)

So, after some changes, this is what I see on the desktop web. I can actually order a ride!

5/

I quickly created a CleanLinks config that did this automatically, and now I can order rides without an app, right from my laptop. So basically I made it easier for me to give Bolt money. You're welcome, Bolt!

Now, how to make it work on mobile? Fortunately, Firefox Nightly on Android allows you to install any addon, so I added CleanLinks and copied the configuration. And voilà! I can order rides from my phone, without an annoying app!

6/

Follow

In fact, I the bolt came, I arrived at the airport, paid, and made it in time.

Now. Why create this artificial barrier for your users, Bolt? The usual excuse of "whaaaaa, creating a web app is additional effort and we can't afford it" doesn't apply here. You already HAVE a nice, fast, functional web app. why geo-fence it?

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The answer is: because we, the users, are compliant with such abuse of monopoly.

This is a reminder to NEVER trust big companies that there's any good reason to not have a web app unless it's clearly not technically possible (which is extremely rare anyway imho).

I invite you to boycott any company that forces (or coerces) you to install an app. We deserve choice, we deserve control. We deserve better. Demand it!

8/8

@kuba personal choice doesn't work on a real world scale, because 95+% of users aren't conscious of many things. You know a lot about tech, so you can recognise this artificial barrier, most people won't. We need laws that require these things, at the very least. Unless we want to overthrow capitalism 😊😇

@Kavelach yes to that! And first step to having laws passed is raising awareness, so this is exactly what I'm doing

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