MSN.com shuts out non-Microsoft browsers.
October 25, 2001 12:04 PM   Subscribe

MSN.com shuts out non-Microsoft browsers. If you're using Mozilla or Opera, you'll have to get a hex editor and change your User-Agent string and pretend you're using IE. Is this lawsuit material?
posted by manero (56 comments total)

 
Of course not. There's no God-given right to have access to a website. That's like saying you'd sue a store that won't let you in because you're not wearing shoes.
posted by crunchland at 12:12 PM on October 25, 2001


I'd liken it more to attemping to go into a Nike store and being denied entry because you're not wearking Nike shoes.
posted by manero at 12:14 PM on October 25, 2001


even so, it's big news and a very aggressive move.
posted by o2b at 12:14 PM on October 25, 2001


but how long will it be before you can't view "Microsoft partners" (read:M$ yes men) sites?
posted by Hugh2d2 at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2001


and it's more like not being allowed in to see a 3d movie because you don't have 3d glasses.
posted by o2b at 12:15 PM on October 25, 2001


What's so odd about this is that it does take much to get an Internet Explorer specific site to work in Opera or Mozilla. It takes far more work to take a standards compliant or IE specific layout and make it work in Netscape 4, which MSN accepts.

In developing websites, I find that in general what works in Internet Explorer (staying close to standards and steering away from the Microsoft-specific features) will also work in other standards compliant browsers, like Mozilla and Opera. It's Netscape 4 and you have to bend of backwards for.

For those that don't have an alternative browser, here's a screenshot of the error message you get when accessing MSN.com with an alternative browser.
posted by stevengarrity at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2001


No, because that's either a health hazard or they don't want their floors dirtied and their air stanked up by your nasty feet. A browser does not cause dirty floors or stanky air. I think this is more akin to being refused access to a bookstore because you only have a third-grade reading level, or because you only read romance novels.
posted by starvingartist at 12:16 PM on October 25, 2001


how pathetic. if you want market share, make your content/service compelling enough so people can't live without it. think Google.

hogging standards is chickenshit, but sadly, it works.
posted by billder at 12:21 PM on October 25, 2001


My question is, who is inexplicably tied to using MSN for their features and content? If they won't let you in, go elsewhere.
posted by carobe at 12:22 PM on October 25, 2001


Seems a bit silly to me. All that Microsoft advertising on MSN will only be preaching to the converted. They probably won't be doing this for very long once they realize they are denying themselves the eyeballs of the very people they desperately want...new customers...

It could get scarier when MSN's partners start blocking access. ESPN is one that I can think of the top of my head that has recently joined up with MSN.
posted by srboisvert at 12:23 PM on October 25, 2001


actually, it's very similar to not being allowed to eat the possum gizzards because you ate the possum gizzards last night.
posted by o2b at 12:25 PM on October 25, 2001


This is sickening. Netscape 4 is about as far from standards compliant as IE3. Microsoft has no shame, and seems to learn no lessons.
posted by tranquileye at 12:26 PM on October 25, 2001


We are quickly plunging headlong into metaphor heat-death.
posted by solistrato at 12:31 PM on October 25, 2001


I think a better question is If you have Mozzilla or Opera why would you even be at MSN.com the 1st place?
posted by Qambient at 12:37 PM on October 25, 2001


I think a better question is If you have Mozzilla or Opera why would you even be at MSN.com the 1st place?

for the pr0n. No, wait, they closed that hole.

m@
posted by m@ at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2001


Qambient does make a good point. I mean, really, what's being lost here? If Microsoft creates a closed network, then fuck 'em. Alternatives to any services they provide already exist, and those will only increase in value as Microsoft raises the wall.

"Oh, no, I won't be able to see Expedia!!!"
posted by solistrato at 12:42 PM on October 25, 2001


at least I can still read slate, or I can now anyway. this morning I was getting all sorts of lovely errors. I'm still getting this:

html xmlns:render="#local" xmlns:edit="http://tempuri.org">

at the top of their home page. oh, and a:

Failed to render component 2057066

on the new sidebar.

aside from "evil" MS-specific crud, does anyone else find this new interface icky? it's all soft & cartoon-like, similiar to....M$XP! (surprise, surprise)

is this the future of the commercial 'net? I've stopped visiting salon (blog entry with my musings about that), and now I find slate substantially less appealing to look at. if it weren't for MeFi, I'd be really despondent.

(and solistrato, I actually like(d) expedia. good driving maps.)
posted by epersonae at 12:46 PM on October 25, 2001


Some comments above seem to assume that only IE is being allowed in, but MSN is blocking only those browsers it claims are not standards compliant. From the linked article: "The latest version [of Netscape], 6.1, seems to be working. [MSN's Director of Marketing] said MSN.com supports Netscape 4.7 and all later versions." This really sounds not much different from what WaSP has been advocating.
posted by mw at 12:50 PM on October 25, 2001


Well, using Netscape 6.1 you can get to MSN.com, but it looks like shit.

Wait until they do this to Hotmail...
posted by mrbula at 12:59 PM on October 25, 2001


and what is opera, chopped liver? it's always seemed at least as good as IE5.5 in the standards dept. (better in other ways, at least for me) - bleh, bleh, bleh.

I swear, for every thing I love in a MS product (making appointments in Outlook, the big tasty craziness of Word, getting SQL statements from Access) there's something else (like this, or incompatible file formats between Access '97 & 2k) that makes me feel like a paranoid crank.

what is their damage?
posted by epersonae at 1:01 PM on October 25, 2001


*Baseball game vendor voice*
[Passport, here! Get your passport!]
posted by jlachapell at 1:03 PM on October 25, 2001


After further review, msn.com seems to crash Netscape 4.x...
posted by mrbula at 1:07 PM on October 25, 2001


This really sounds not much different from what WaSP has been advocating.

Some differences:

1. The WASP method usually points people to *several* standards compliant browsers.
2. Locking people out is not the only WASP option: you can provide a dead plain version of the page apply CSS using @import to provide the rich layout effects in IE and Opera (e.g. A List Apart, Lake Effect)

Yeah, as a corporate entity, MS is within its rights to encourage people to use its browsers, but the duplicity and arrogance of this still rankles.

(Re Slate: as I posted elsewhere and epersonae posted above, it looks like ass on anything but IE 5.5 and up, but you can still read it, for now).
posted by maudlin at 1:12 PM on October 25, 2001


LOL - In many ways Qambient has a point. I almost NEVER go to msn.com. The interesting thing is that we have a glitch in some DLL files (probably an easy fix but whatever) where we CAN'T run IE - only Netscape and Opera - hasn't been a problem. So, sure, I can pretend I'm IE in Opera (Opera's more like a delicious patte' than chopped liver - *grin*) but really. So Opera can fake out the MSN site and maybe Mozilla can to (?) - seems like MS is starting to believe its own illusions? ;-)
posted by thunder at 1:19 PM on October 25, 2001


I use Opera and have no problem viewing Slate as long as I have Opera identify itself as MSIE 5.0. If I don't do that, I seem to get this.

The funniest thing about this is that on the notice page you can still follow the "Advertise" link, which seems to have the new layout.
posted by Witold at 1:27 PM on October 25, 2001


Someone please post a screenshot of msn.com from Sept 11 to show why we aren't missing anything.
posted by dithered at 1:28 PM on October 25, 2001


Oh, but dithered, we ARE missing something! ;-) From following the 'advertise' link: The new, highly innovative design of the MSN Home Page gives Internet enthusiasts a simple, personal, flexible way to access the rich content and services of MSN. *grin*
posted by thunder at 1:34 PM on October 25, 2001


FYI, Konqueror (the best Linux browser in the world) is locked out by default, but has a nifty feature that lets you fake the Useragent string by domain. Set it to report any version of IE to msn.com, and it renders just fine. Which constitutes proof, in my mind, that this isn't about "browsers which provide a good user experience" but is about "browsers which support Microsoft's monopoly." If they'd bothered to test before restricting their site, there'd be no reason to deny access to Konqueror.

But I have to agree with those who say this is no big loss, and MS can do whatever the hell it wants. Sites which go out of their way to prevent me from viewing them will not get my traffic, simple as that. Its a great big internet, kids. Who has time for this silly crap?
posted by rusty at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2001


(and solistrato, I actually like(d) expedia. good driving maps.)

Yeah, well, so's your mom.

I got nothing.
posted by solistrato at 1:35 PM on October 25, 2001


Could this just be turnaround for AOL/Time/Warner's RoadRunner unit refusing to support XP?
posted by silusGROK at 1:49 PM on October 25, 2001


I have a MACINTOSH with Internet Explorer 5 running on it, and I cannot access MSN.com's chat section. It also will not work on the Mac version of Netscape. Talk about alienation! Microsoft makes tons of money selling software to Mac users, but won't let them use their websites.
posted by schlaager at 2:05 PM on October 25, 2001


RoadRunner users shouldn't really worry. I use RoadRunner and XP automatically configured my network connection during the install process. I am really glad I don't need to install RoadRunner's software to be connected to the internet.
posted by riffola at 2:19 PM on October 25, 2001


Strange that MSN doesn't show up in Amaya, the W3C browser, when "all of our development work for the new MSN.com is...W3C standard."

Isn't Amaya W3C standard? I'm confused.
posted by swift at 2:21 PM on October 25, 2001


I have Netscape (I'll die before I go over to the MIE dark side) and MSN.com just opened for me fine and I seem to be able to navigate in it fine. . .I wonder if they made a quick adjustment due to criticism. . . ..
posted by Danf at 2:31 PM on October 25, 2001


Mozilla users, you can install David Isley's useragent toolbar that you can use to change your identity without using a text editor.

All I had to do when msn refused me is select "IE5 win98", hit return, hit reload and i was in.
posted by bobo123 at 2:32 PM on October 25, 2001


MSN is also a dialup network, like AOL. So they are locking in their own users to use their browser to access a good part of the services they are paying for.

Second, they (Microsoft) have the larger part of the home market in their pocket (the OS). The majority of those home users are not likely to question why their browser is not allowed, just that they should get or use IE.

Come on, people, it's Microsoft, what's new?
posted by mmarcos at 2:41 PM on October 25, 2001


I love Microsoft. They're so great.
posted by swift at 2:47 PM on October 25, 2001


Is Mozilla on Windows locked out too? I know it is on Linux, and I'd love to hear them explain why Netscape 6.1 is OK in the standards-compliance department but Mozilla isn't.

I think they've just made a very serious mistake, however, because they've left themselves wide-open to an accessibility lawsuit under the ADA if they start blocking non-IE speech-based browsers and such. Does anyone happen to have an alternative browser installed?
posted by atlee at 3:06 PM on October 25, 2001


The question was posed as to whether this was illegal. The correct answer is that it could be viewed as a (further) restraint on trade, and a violation of the Antitrust laws.

By the way, I have a Mac and very much like IE 5.0. I'd be happy to seriously try Opera, but each time I download a copy from Opera, it's a temporary or "Beta" version. Is there a final Opera browser for Mac? Anyone????
posted by ParisParamus at 3:41 PM on October 25, 2001


riffola: RoadRunner uses DHCP. A blind retarded spider monkey could get on the internet without using RoadRunner's software.

"Windows XP: As Smart as a Blind Retarded Spider Monkey."
posted by rusty at 4:04 PM on October 25, 2001


I think it was the browser war between Netscape and IE that rubbed out the effective line between "beta" and "release". It applies more to the marketing campaign than the software itself these days. I certainly don't trust a release version any more than a beta. (Gimme a .2 release any day.)
posted by holgate at 4:18 PM on October 25, 2001


It's anti-competitive which means absolutely nothing since MSN is not a monopoly. The fact that Microsoft has a monopoly on PC operating systems isn't relevant.
posted by electro at 5:18 PM on October 25, 2001


For whatever it's worth, they changed it.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 5:29 PM on October 25, 2001


For whatever it's worth, I still can't view the page with the newest release of Opera.
posted by waxpancake at 5:38 PM on October 25, 2001


"MSN is also a dialup network, like AOL. So they are locking in their own users to use their browser to access a good part of the services they are paying for."

You're confusing their web server treatment of their own users with their mandating Microsoft-only access to their mail servers. The comments today seemed to be mostly from non-MSN ISP users who noticed the website tinkering. Comments about the MS-only mail service have been going on since the announcement months ago.
posted by SEWilco at 5:59 PM on October 25, 2001


Rusty: Then I am dumber than a blind retarded monkey :)
posted by riffola at 6:04 PM on October 25, 2001


Damn, I was blocked from it, and I even have Opera identifying as IE5. I don't really care to visit msn.com, but using standards as an excuse is bullshit. (since they block Opera, Konqueror, etc.) They should be ashamed.
posted by dagnyscott at 6:46 PM on October 25, 2001


Microsoft is sounding like the Taliban. Both try to spin their view and just look like fools. Microsoft's MSN should render nearly identically in Mozilla, NS 6x, Opera 5x if they are talking about standards. Then changing their statements. Nearly equals the Taliban stating they do not know where Bin Laden is, but stating they will not turn him over.
posted by vanderwal at 7:55 PM on October 25, 2001


i have never had any desire to visit msn.com, and i've never really had too much against microsoft before. (maybe minor annoyances.).

but they messed with my opera? to that, all i have to say is f- microsoft.
posted by lotsofno at 8:03 PM on October 25, 2001


It's anti-competitive which means absolutely nothing since MSN is not a monopoly. The fact that Microsoft has a monopoly on PC operating systems isn't relevant.

Good point. I didn't read the post; just the intro and comments.

What I want to know is: is anyone enthusiastic about MSN? When I see that domain name as part of an e-mail address I think "WTF"?
posted by ParisParamus at 8:14 PM on October 25, 2001


It's anti-competitive which means absolutely nothing since MSN is not a monopoly. The fact that Microsoft has a monopoly on PC operating systems isn't relevant.

Good point. I didn't read the post; just the intro and comments.

What I want to know is: is anyone enthusiastic about MSN? When I see that domain name as part of an e-mail address I think "WTF"?
posted by ParisParamus at 8:14 PM on October 25, 2001


Microsoft is sounding like the Taliban.

A new permutation of Godwin's Law!

id's Refrasing of Godwin's Law:

As an internet discussion grows, the probability of a comparison with Hitler, Osama bin Laden, the Nazis or the Taliban approches 1.
posted by Hexaemeron at 11:09 PM on October 25, 2001


For whatever it's worth, they changed it.

Do you think they'd put it back if I asked? I thought this was a great idea ... saves me frantically hitting the back button if I ever get drawn into an MSN page.
posted by walrus at 6:36 AM on October 26, 2001


I just hit it a few minutes ago with Mozilla 0.9.3/Win98 and it blocked me out (I took a screenshot for fun). I'm going to download the Mozilla user-agent faker that someone else mentioned and try that.

How long before they start blocking platforms under the pretense that, Linux say, "doesn't properly interoperate with the exciting ActiveX technologies of MSN.com".

Good ole MS--it's all about the users, isn't it?
posted by wheat at 8:00 AM on October 26, 2001


The typically-understated opinion of Tim Berners-Lee [via Scripting News]: "Running the msn.com homepage through the validator on Friday showed the site did not use valid XHTML and did not meet the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. So if the site doesn't use W3C standards, and browsers that provide more full support for them are blocked out, I would also like to know what the reason is."
posted by holgate at 5:34 PM on October 26, 2001


From the NYTimes today:

After an Online Ruckus, Microsoft Opens MSN Site to All

Written to a relatively unsophisticated audience, but informative. I like the kicker:

With both prescience and a sure grasp of the Web's self-policing nature, Mr. Bray, co-inventor of XML, an important standard for writing Web pages, added: "I assume Microsoft is going to be shamed out of this. And this will prove to be mainly a source of innocent, malicious fun at Microsoft's expense."
posted by mattpfeff at 6:58 AM on October 29, 2001


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