Recently, I’ve been thinking about just how much market share Microsoft really has on the Internet.
While there is no doubt that it is by far the most popular browser and OS, many browsers like Opera trick sites into believing that they are Internet Explorer on Windows in an effort to open up content that would otherwise be hidden from them. (At least that used to be the case, there is not much content like that around anymore.)
While considering this, I thought that this incorrectly gives web masters the idea that nobody is looking at their site with anything other then IE on Windows. The likely result of that, is that these web masters will never swap to W3C standard compliant code.
Since “choice” is the catchword of the future, it’s in our best interests to encourage open standards as the way of the future, or our options will become very limited. We will have to run Windows and use Internet Explorer. I’m not happy with just having one “choice” though I suspect Micro$oft would be pretty happy with that result.
Personally I use Linux much of the time when browsing and such, but often times I am forced to dual boot to Windows for development testing and such, and since I search on Google about 50+ times in the average day, it occurred to me that people like myself are probably making a big contribution to the “Windows and IE is the default” stats that Google publish each year.
A bit of research showed me that its relatively easy to make Windows Internet browsers appear to be running on Linux, or Mac or some other operating system.
Internet Explorer can even be made to identify itself as Mozilla Firebird, or Opera etc.
In my case, my desire was that my Windows copy of FireFox (which is my default browser when in Windows or Linux) identify itself as running on Linux.
It turns out that this is really very easy, See here for instructions that work with both Mozilla and FireBird/FireFox. (There is also a user agent switcher extension for FireFox that allows you to change it to anything you want with the click of a button.)
For those of you using IE, you can change its user agent string by following the instructions here
Though I am not sure you should because Windows Update might not allow you to install security updates if you do. (If anyone knows of a tool that allows you to identify Internet Explorer as something else for everyone except WindowsUpdate, I’d love to hear about it.)
The reason I want to do this is pretty simple, if web masters and developers are shown that the only way to cater to all the browsers and operating systems using their site is to use open W3C standards, then the chances are good that they will move to support them, and that’s better for all of us regardless of your particular likes or dislikes browser and OS wise.
Some of my favorite browser strings. (taken from the stats counter logs from the month of May 2004.)
FireFox on Linux (my default.)
Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.7) Gecko/20040614 Firefox/0.9
Apple Safari on PPC Mac OSX.
Mozilla/5.0 (Macintosh; U; PPC Mac OS X; en) AppleWebKit/124 (KHTML, like Gecko) Safari/125.1
Opera on Linux.
Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; X11; Linux i686) Opera 7.23 [en]
So, regardless of what you use, you can now show your browser and OS as anything you like.
My suggestion is to always use an underdog. If Linux, Mac OSX etc or Mozilla, Safari, Opera ever get huge market share, then change to an OS like FreeBSD or similar and a different standards compliant browser in order to continue to make web developers strive to use open standards.
If we all work towards it, we can own an open web where everybody see’s the same content in the same manner, and we will all have the choice as to what browser and operating system we use.