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Reuters doesn't do (crickets)
November 17, 2003 7:35 AM   Subscribe

Don't do browser sniffing. To properly view our site, you must be using a standards-compliant web browser. Your current browser is: (...nothing...) Over 97% of our audience now uses a standards-compliant web browser, however you appear not to be using one. We want to help you fix this situation and improve your experience on reuters.co.uk and the rest of the internet. I'm using Mozilla 1.5 but my user agent string is set to report Netscape 4.75 running on Windows 95.
posted by jfuller (45 comments total)

 
I guess that's the price you pay for being difficult.
posted by ph00dz at 7:39 AM on November 17, 2003


Dear Web Developers: Browser Sniffing is Stupid...especially if you do it poorly, basing decisions on user agent strings and assumed capabilities, rather than on actual capabilities. (Web Standards Project Buzz Archive Dec. 2002.)

If you feel that you have received this message incorrectly please contact us at: webmaster@reuters.co.uk. Please be prepared to let us know which operating system and browser you are using.

Forget it. Just serve the page, please.
posted by jfuller at 7:41 AM on November 17, 2003


I'm on Firebird, and it doesn't recognize it either. Wheee. I'm so subversive.
posted by qDot at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2003


It doesn't even recognise Safari, which is on its list of "good" browsers....
posted by jill at 7:55 AM on November 17, 2003


Judicious use of CSS selectors can get you what browser sniffing purports without being caught with your pants down when you're slow about updating your UA dictionary. It even solves for your own madness, jfuller. but why do you insist on making the baby jesus cry?

It's people like you that keep my SysAd from allowing me to gracefully 'degrade' the user experience for NS4.x. He looks at the log and says 0.8% of 800,000+ is a lot of page views that would only see a basic presentation (black text, white background, selected fonts and sizes). Instead of ultra-clean pages we get a half-assed+ muddle of compliance with lots of extra id/class hooks to make style suggestions.
posted by Fezboy! at 7:58 AM on November 17, 2003


I'm using Mozilla 1.5 but my user agent string is set to report Netscape 4.75 running on Windows 95.

So don't do that. Geez.
posted by machaus at 7:58 AM on November 17, 2003


Much ado about nothing. Browser-sniffing to use specific features is bad. Browser-sniffing to weed out ancient, hoplessly-broken, standards-ignoring browsers is perfectly reasonable. If you insist on reporting that you have a rotary dial, services that require touch-tone will be unavailable.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 8:01 AM on November 17, 2003


At work, we deny a lot of user agents -- based on the User-Agent: header in the request [oh horrors]! -- because so many of them have SSL weaknesses, broken trust chains, bugs or other gaping security flaws that put our customers at risk to financial loss. End users are unlikely to have or even know how to, for example, updated their expired root certs in NN3.x.

Often, there is no better way to root out these particular browsers, as any cleverness done at the SSL negotiation level tends to confuse the fragile implementations in a couple of the more popular browsers.
posted by majick at 8:02 AM on November 17, 2003


It works fine for me and I'm on firebird.

Besides that, whatthehell? Who cares?
posted by angry modem at 8:06 AM on November 17, 2003


I'm using Mozilla 1.5 but my user agent string is set to report Netscape 4.75 running on Windows 95.

So don't do that. Geez.


Seriously. What's your point in setting it that way?
posted by jpoulos at 8:07 AM on November 17, 2003


UA browser sniffing is bad. Browser sniffing is good:

if(!document.getElementsByTagName("BODY")) {
document.write("Please Log Off the Internet. Your browser is the suxx0r.");
}

<noscript>
Please Log Off the Internet.
</noscript>
posted by dvdg at 8:13 AM on November 17, 2003


Regardless of what you think of the error, you have to give them credit for including konq in their list of links. Sure, they can't list them all, but to show browsers OTHER Than NN/MSIE is a big step forward.
posted by devbrain at 8:16 AM on November 17, 2003


> but why do you insist on making the baby jesus cry?

I oppose one-size-fits-all standardization wherever it raises one of its hydra heads.

Of all the motorcycles I have ridden, my favorite was a Triumph 650 manufactured at a time when Triumph couldn't decide what kind of bolts to use. It had some SAE thread, some British thread, some Metric thread. Took three different socket sets to work on it. Magnificent bike.


> to show browsers OTHER Than NN/MSIE is a big step forward.

Agree. Props to them for that much.
posted by jfuller at 8:20 AM on November 17, 2003


You're using a standards compliant browser yet disguising it as an ancient non-standards compliant browser then complaining that the site doesn't support the non-standards based browser. I'd play you a touching piece on my violin, unfortunately nanotechnology hasn't advanced to the point where a violin may be crafted of insignificant enough proportions to express my sympathy.

Now perhaps there's a fault in the way they failed to detect what browser you're actually using, and I definitely agree that it should at least try to serve you the pages anyway, maybe after clicking "I know I'm a luddite, but let me try and see the site anyway" but complaining about having standards seems like an example of some terrible misfiring going on in your cerebral cortex. If it weren't for published standards the only standard would be whatever Microsoft dictates. Since they aren't very forthcoming in what their actual standards are the end result would most likely be that for the 95% of the population that uses MSIE the web would operate properly. For the 5% who don't the web would just fail to operate at all.
posted by substrate at 8:38 AM on November 17, 2003


I oppose one-size-fits-all standardization wherever it raises one of its hydra heads.

Good for you. But Reuters doesn't, and it's their content that you're interested in.

I'm pissed that I can't play HALO on the old 486 I have lying around, but I'm not posting about it on Metafilter. :-)
posted by jpoulos at 8:41 AM on November 17, 2003


I wonder why no one sets up an independant consortium to develop technical specifications for the Web's infrastructure.
posted by the fire you left me at 8:47 AM on November 17, 2003


This isn't meant to be harsh, but I don't understand this type of critiscm with websites.

Reuter's is charging you to use their website? Are you paying them to host, code, or maintain the site?

If you are then you have a grievance with them as the aren't supporting their client base, but if you wish to use a free service then you need to take responsibility and play some ball as well.

And it seems like you do want standardization on reuter's side.

BTW (OT): My favorite car of all time was a VW scirrocco Wolfsburg Edition. I don't know why but nothing was standardized on that car. It would take three trips to the parts store just to change the simpliest things.
posted by Yossarian at 9:01 AM on November 17, 2003


I'm using Mozilla 1.4, a standards compliant browser, and I still get the page telling me to download a new browser.
posted by Orange Goblin at 9:07 AM on November 17, 2003


jill, Orange Goblin & others: are you clicking on the link in the fpp which directly goes to their "you're being naughty" page, or actually going to http://www.reuters.co.uk/? The actual site works fine in Mozilla 1.5 and Safari.
posted by zsazsa at 9:14 AM on November 17, 2003


Good for you. But Reuters doesn't, and it's their content that you're interested in.

I'm pissed that I can't play HALO on the old 486 I have lying around, but I'm not posting about it on Metafilter. :-)


But Halo won't play on that 486 for a good reason. It really, truly is too slow. The Valve guys may even have made use of some pentium-specific opcodes. Who knows.

However, Galeon, which uses Mozilla 1.5 as its renderer, is a standards-compliant browser, and to claim that it's any less compliant than Mozilla 1.5 is entirely incorrect.

Certainly Reuters is free to come up with all sorts of spurious reasons to exclude me from their website - they could say people in Virginia can only view their website on Tuesday and we could all say "well it's their content."

And you're right - it is their content, so no one is suggesting a class-action lawsuit, but it's dumb. And bad practice on the web. That's really all the poster was saying.

Though that still doesn't change the fact that having mozilla claim to be Netscape 4.75 is rarely a good idea.
posted by mragreeable at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2003


Took three different socket sets to work on it. Magnificent bike.

Are you suggesting that making the bike a mechanic's nightmare somehow made it better?
posted by normy at 9:15 AM on November 17, 2003


haha good call zsazsa , i was confused as well, i was about to mess with my UA string to figure out why that was still telling me to upgrade
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 9:19 AM on November 17, 2003


Point taken, mragreeable. I agree entirely that this is bad practice on the part of Reuters (though I've seen much worse). Developers need to be more inclusive of the browsers they "let in". However, I shut NN4 out of most of the sites I develop, and I don't care who I piss off in doing so. Until someone can give me a valid reason why they can't upgrade to a standards-compliant browser, I see no reason to waste hours (or my client's budget) coding for them.

If all developers had stopped supporting dinosaurs like NN4 two years ago, there would be virtually no one using them today.
posted by jpoulos at 9:26 AM on November 17, 2003


It's not recognizing my IE6 either. Either whicha way, who f'n cares. serve.the.content. if the flippitydoos and whichawangas don't flatulate properly, i can live with it.
posted by glenwood at 9:27 AM on November 17, 2003


Yeh, I didn't realise the link went straight to the new browser page. Whoops.

But Halo won't play on that 486 for a good reason. It really, truly is too slow. The Valve guys may even have made use of some pentium-specific opcodes. Who knows.

Er, Halo was made by Bungie, and ported to PC by Gearbox. Gearbox have done work for Valve (Opposing Force, Blue Shift, etc), but are a seperate company. Not that it matters.
posted by Orange Goblin at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2003


Can we discuss the content on the Reuters site? Check out the photo of the day - "AN ORANGUTAN BEATS FELLOW PRIMATE IN KICKBOXING MATCH IN BANGKOK" I, well... gee. I really don't know what to say about that, but it does need to be shared.

(oh, and no problem accessing with Safari, for what that's worth)

posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2003


I guarantee that http://www.reuters.co.uk/ recognizes IE6.
posted by jpoulos at 9:40 AM on November 17, 2003


> Are you suggesting that making the bike a mechanic's nightmare somehow
> made it better?

More fun, more affection-engaging. Efficiency is boring. Diversity, idiosyncracy, a rainbow of non-interoperable solutions, that's what's fun.


> And it seems like you do want standardization on reuter's side.

But not much. Already I've forgotten why I arrived at Reuters, where I found the link that sent me there and what it was about. Whatever it was, the we-don't-like-your-browser page I actually got was hugely more interesting.

The web is so content-rich there's not a site in ten thousand that doesn't have a half dozen perfectly good alternatives. And so I expect it will remain--millions of sites begging for eyeballs, and beggers can't be choosers.
posted by jfuller at 9:43 AM on November 17, 2003


More fun, more affection-engaging. Efficiency is boring.

You have a quite perverse idea of what constitutes "fun." Standardizing the underlying details (e.g. the bolt sizes) makes it easier to get to the actual fun (e.g. riding the bike).
posted by kindall at 9:53 AM on November 17, 2003


Er, Halo was made by Bungie, and ported to PC by Gearbox. Gearbox have done work for Valve (Opposing Force, Blue Shift, etc), but are a seperate company. Not that it matters.

Right, sorry - I was thinking of Half-life, which is almost old enough where it may in fact have run on a 486.
posted by mragreeable at 10:07 AM on November 17, 2003


Half-life most certainly did run on my 486! I think I had a whopping 64mb of RAM back then.
posted by tiamat at 11:00 AM on November 17, 2003


Kindall, just because you think the riding is more fun, that doesn't mean that some doofusother person doesn't enjoy the mchanic razzing more. (I'm thinking of our discussion with konolia here...)
posted by billsaysthis at 11:03 AM on November 17, 2003


More fun, more affection-engaging. Efficiency is boring. Diversity, idiosyncracy, a rainbow of non-interoperable solutions, that's what's fun.

What's the weather like in Redmond today?
posted by machaus at 11:12 AM on November 17, 2003


Diversity, idiosyncracy, a rainbow of non-interoperable solutions, that's what's fun.

Well, it seems that reuters.com is non-interoperable with Mozilla 1.5 dressed up like NN 4.75 for Win 95. It's the Triumph 650 of the client-server world. I'm glad it brought a smile to your face. Plus, you gave the rest of us something to gripe about!
posted by speedo at 11:13 AM on November 17, 2003


Half-life most certainly did run on my 486! I think I had a whopping 64mb of RAM back then.

I only have 128MB of RAM now...
posted by Orange Goblin at 11:50 AM on November 17, 2003


Did you really have 64MB of RAM on a 486? That would have cost a fortune. My first Pentium shipped with only 8MB.
posted by jpoulos at 11:59 AM on November 17, 2003


Efficiency is boring. Diversity, idiosyncracy, a rainbow of non-interoperable solutions, that's what's fun.

... quite possibly the least well-thought-out life philosophy I've ever read.
posted by GeekAnimator at 12:33 PM on November 17, 2003


haha good call zsazsa , i was confused as well, i was about to mess with my UA string to figure out why that was still telling me to upgrade

unbeleivable. i strongly recommend not messing with anything until you figure out how to read the location box. you drive a car? allow me explain the windsheild window and it's purpose.
posted by quonsar at 12:37 PM on November 17, 2003


I keep my (so-called) webpages very low-tech because I know all too many people who are still on dial-up.

And, yeah, I run with a lot of antique programs for a whole slew of bizarre reasons.... I would happily update my Mozilla but for the fact that I adore the little newt icon and the display splash of the little dragon blowing fire (it's livelier art than most I see in galleries these days) and I'm not willing to give them up just yet, not even to see Reuters. (In answer to your question, yes, I have tried to find where those two images are stored on my system so I could copy them to a local file but so far, no luck.)

"Of all the motorcycles I have ridden, my favorite was a Triumph 650 manufactured at a time when Triumph couldn't decide what kind of bolts to use. It had some SAE thread, some British thread, some Metric thread. Took three different socket sets to work on it. Magnificent bike." ---jfuller

OMG, that was SUCH a great bike!

I never had do repairs on it (and I had no idea how bizarre they were until you popped up with the info!), but I never once heard the rider complain when he did. I think he was as much into the tinkering as he was into riding. Heh. A lot like the way some of the folks here seem to approach odd sites on the internet.
posted by realjanetkagan at 1:55 PM on November 17, 2003


Until someone can give me a valid reason why they can't upgrade to a standards-compliant browser, I see no reason to waste hours (or my client's budget) coding for them.

Are U.S. government offices still standardized on NN4?
posted by Dreama at 2:01 PM on November 17, 2003


The reuters site works fine with lynx, so at least they've done something right.
posted by ikalliom at 3:39 PM on November 17, 2003


In case anyone needed to be reminded, I give you, once again, Zen's Rules of Corporate Web Design.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:08 PM on November 17, 2003


Dreama: no, thank God. They're allowed to use IE/Win now.

(though that really isn't much better, now is it?)
posted by Ptrin at 4:22 PM on November 17, 2003


Reuters? Their web coder must be a freedomfighter.
posted by HTuttle at 7:17 PM on November 17, 2003


I find it odd that it won't work properly for Mozilla reporting itself as Mozilla, yet then suggests that one downloads Mozilla. This is... Microsoft logic!
posted by Belgand at 11:32 PM on November 17, 2003


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