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Browser user-agent considered harmful (was Re: wine and IE)

on Tue, Mar 04, 2003 at 10:28:43PM -0600, Kent West (westk@acu.edu) wrote:
> Karsten M. Self wrote:
> >Moreover:  even in the corporate world, if two business needs make
> >conflicting browser demands, you may not be able to accomodate them
> >(particularly for specific versions of MSIE after 5.x).
> >
> >For this and other reasons, I consider the browser user-agent string to
> >be harmful.  You can join the protest:
> >
> >   http://twiki.iwethey.org/twiki/bin/view/Main/UserAgentString
> >

> Oh sure, use a phrase that discourages Christians and other
> non-profanity users from participating in this community. Otherwise
> I'd certainly give this movement serious consideration.
> Call me a prude.

There's a rationale to this.

Supposing you're a CIO, portal manager, or other officer in charge of a
website, and the webgrunt presents you with the list of most rapidly
increasing user-agent strings.

Strings containing an obscenity are clearly provocative.  The executive
who finds this string on the weblog report realizes that this is the
straight dope -- she's not seeing a doctored or sanitized report.  The
truth is being revealed, and and she'd best take heed.  It's *meant* to
be a little shocking.  Limited results show that people *do* notice the
string if they look through their logs at all.

Of course, since I already advocate treating the user-agent header as
harmful, then you're welcome to substitute any value you prefer.
However a degree of uniformity would be useful as this will create a
stronger signal.

Actually, there are some other criticisms of the string I'd suggest:
many logs only pick up a limited number of bytes of the user-agent
header.  So it might be better to put the standards component (the
significant part of the message) first.

And an aside:  in my experience, religious persuasion and proclivities
toward profanity are wholly orthogonal.


Karsten M. Self <kmself@ix.netcom.com>        http://kmself.home.netcom.com/
 What Part of "Gestalt" don't you understand?
    Linux: Good, fast, _and_ cheap.

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