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Why Browser Detection Fails

Yahoo's BETA browser detection
No matter what browser you use, there is a good chance you have come to a website that would not load. I am not referring to the sites that function incorrectly in a browser. I mean those websites that purposely deny your browser access because it is not the “right” browser. They usually come with cute messages telling you why you are not special enough to view their site.

Why am I ranting about this? The reason is simple. I do not want any of you who have websites or design sites for others to make the same mistake. Most HTML, CSS, and Javascript will function in any modern browser. If it does not for a particular user, they would be better off seeing what does not work and have a chance to fix it. Rather than making a site that may not work in some browsers, take the extra time to test your site, make it standards compliant, and ensure that it works in most browsers.

Browser detection fails because it usually relies on user agent data, which cannot be reliable. For example, a browser may be based on gecko (i.e. Firefox compatible) but may display a different name. The same may be true for any number of browsers, particularly those on mobile devices. You do not want to deny potential customers simply because their browser does not have a common name.

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