…especially if you do it poorly, basing decisions on user agent strings and assumed capabilities, rather than on actual capabilities. Two alert readers sent in sad examples of this in action just this week. First, the recently redesigned HotBot, which does make a tremendous effort to support standards and provide accessibility, refuses to recognize Mozilla 1.2 as a browser that, in HotBot’s own words, “supports web standards”. When you try to use their skins feature using Mozilla 1.2, you get a message to the effect that you’re missing out and should download a browser that provides the right support. We trust that HotBot’s engineers will reconsider excluding browsers based on a version number, or at least fix their code so that it allows for “and up”. And then, we won’t get so cheesed at them for sending Mozilla users over to the Browser Upgrade Campaign page.
In yet another example of browser sniffing gone terribly wrong, BabelFish (no, not that BabelFish) has decided that it only wants to work in Internet Explorer 5.0 and up. Their definition of “and up”, though, seems to exclude both Mozilla and Opera. And, as usual, there’s nothing that those browsers cannot render once you paste in the super-secret, IE-only URL. As you might expect, the page doesn’t actually validate to any version of HTML, but that’s fine. They only have “2 million unique visitors each month from over 55 countries” (over 55? you mean 56?). Thanks to diligent Web standards champions Andreas Bovens and Jan!
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