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Microsoft

MSN Blocks Mozilla, Other Browsers [updated] 1295

Posted by timothy
from the darn dept.
k_hokanson writes: "I was just going to check out some tasty news articles, with my trusty Mozilla, at MSN. but what do I get when I go there? A nice little message telling me that 'in order to display this page properly', I have to get the latest version of IE! And no, there's no option to display it incorrectly. " Enough people have submitted this story that it can't be an isolated case;) Thanks, Microsoft. Here's the story on Yahoo!. CT: telling konqueror to lie about its User Agent causes the page to render correctly save the background which is the wrong color. Update: 10/25 23:19 GMT by T : kuwan writes "Looks like Microsoft was getting too much heat. CNet is reporting that Microsoft is backing off on their browser block. I'm only wondering how long it will be before they do it again with some other excuse as to why we all need IE."
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MSN Blocks Mozilla, Other Browsers [updated]

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  • Not for me (Score:2, Informative)

    by carrier lost (222597)
    Just tried with NS 6.1. Everything displayed okay.

    MjM
    • Galeon 0.12.4 is blocked. It offers to let me download some windows and mac browsers, but nothing that will help on the computer I'm actually using.
    • Yeah, the MSN upgrade page is deceptive. They're allowing netscape 4.x and some other browsers. But mozilla, lynx, opera, etc. are being locked out. Of course you can get by it by changing your User Agent string, but the average person isn't going to know how to do that.
    • The guy from Opera in the article said they changed the browserid by 1 char and they were able to access msn.com ok.

      So are they blocking specific browserid's or are they blocking everything but a couple specific ones?
      • by Tridus (79566) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:59PM (#2479214) Homepage
        They're blocking specific ones.

        eg: Opera includes the ability to spoof certain other ones, but still tacks "Opera 5.xx" somewhere in the UA. So if you simply search it for "Opera", you can block it. If they change the string to Opero for example, it will work again.

        The interesting thing is that I'm not sure what would happen if you made a copy of IE using the IEAK that contained a custom UA string that had the word "Opera 5" in it. I wonder if it'd get blocked too. :)
    • Looks fine with Netscape 4.7 on Solaris as well. Netscape 4.0 under NT will bring up the browser upgrade screen.
    • iCab works if it identifies as IE. It may be caching, but it also works if it identifies as iCab. Must be a bug in MSN's blocker logic.
    • OmniWeb works. So of the browsers I've tested and posted as replies here, only the Mozilla derived one failed. iCab and OmniWeb are both independent code bases.
  • Every so often I run into some page or another that insists on IE. I have an easy solution; I just don't go to those pages. I would be somewhat curious to know how they're blocking the pages; is it just a name check which you can work around by setting the propery in Mozilla that reflects the browser type? Or do they do some sneaky ActiveX thing that you can't get around?
    • From the story it appears to check the browser type. Apparently changing the browser type string that Opera sends by one letter gets around the problem. It also explains why Netscape 6.1 can get in when Mozilla can't.
    • Usually they just check the User-Agent: HTTP field. This can be done using either CGI or a server-side scripting language like asp or php.

      JavaScript may also be able to report on the browser but I'm not sure. It makes more sense IMO to do it server-side anyway.

      Someone else's post already said that in this case they check User-Agent so you can configure Mozilla to report IE or NS6 and it will work.

      --
      Garett
    • I've even checked out this IE thing they're talking about, it made me curious. It seems to be a web browser of some sort. I'd love to try it, too bad they don't make it for my platform. [redhat.com]. Oh well. I'm sure if it's anything worth reading on msn.com someone will post a mirror on /. :)
  • by garcia (6573)
    find out what is reported by IE/NS and have Konq send that out as the ID.
  • Workaround.... (Score:4, Informative)

    by sb_steele (513302) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:33PM (#2478868) Journal
    Apparently MS is only blocking OS's that have IE available (Win32 / MacOS)...there is hope: A story on mozilla.org [mozilla.org] shows how to change what your browser reports as its UserAgent (Customizing Mozilla [mozilla.org]). Change (or create) user.js in your Mozilla Profile directory, and place this in it:

    user_pref("general.useragent.override", "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux 2.2.16-22smp i686; en-US; m18) Gecko/20010110 Netscape6/6.5");

    Mozilla on Win32 now gets in... But this just adds to the evidence against anything MS...
    • Well, it blocks me on Linux (using Konqueror, Mozilla), but it lets NS 4.77 in fine. I can't think of why outdated, old NS 4.77 can "render the page correctly" and the newer Mozilla and Konqueror can't. So, it isn't the OS that MSN is blocking, just specific browsers.
      • Yes. The Yahoo article says this:

        • "Microsoft is seeing (that) it is an Opera browser and shutting it out," said Tetzchner, whose team was testing the problem Thursday. "If you change the Opera string by one letter, it is letting us in."
    • No no no! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TomatoMan (93630) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:42PM (#2478977) Homepage Journal
      I'd argue to never, ever do this. Why change your good browser to report that it's a bad browser?

      This what's important here: The authors of the site blocking you have decided that you're not important. Fine; nod your head in agreement and take your traffic, ad-viewing eyes, and attention elsewhere. Don't even tell them or complain; let them die of natural selection.
      • let them die of natural selection


        Unfortunately, natural selection only works when there is competition... not when the web site is owned by the same company that has a monopoly on desktop operating systems.

      • Re:No no no! (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Tim Macinta (1052)
        I'd argue to never, ever do this. Why change your good browser to report that it's a bad browser?

        I agree with this statement, but that's not what the author was suggesting. He was suggesting that you report it as the same browser, just on a different operating system. Mozilla on Linux is definitely not a "bad browser" and it's functionally equivalent to its Windows counterpart, so changing your Mozilla on Windows to say that it is Mozilla on Linux shouldn't be as big of a deal as masquerading as something like Netscape 4.x.

        In practice, this may still cause problems with other braindead sites which will see your browser as Mozilla on Linux and not let you in. A great way to get around this would be to add a way to easily switch user-agent strings to this awesome little prefs toolbar [xulplanet.com]. Then you could surf with the correct user-agent most of the time and when you run into an annoying site like MSN that only works with certain browsers, you could easily switch to a different user-agent string just while you're looking at that site. The toolbar already lets you very easily turn on/off Javascript, Java, Pop-Ups, Onload Popups (with a slight modification that I wrote recently), and other things that usually require a browser restart or a lengthy trip through the preferences menu. User-agent masquerading would be a great addition to the toolbar (I'd do it myself if I actually wanted to look at MSN).

    • Apparently MS is only blocking OS's that have IE available (Win32 / MacOS)...

      I'm running Mozilla on Solaris, and the page gives me the warning ("Gives me the finger", is more like it).

      Note that this only applies to WWW.msn.com [msn.com]. Their Channel pages, such as womencentral.msn.com [msn.com] display just fine. Further proof that MSN's claim is bullshit.

      Not a big problem, I don't really need MSN anyways, and apparently MSN advertisers don't really need my business.
    • This might allow people determined to get in (who would be that desperate?), but the vast majority of users will assume incorrectly that they must "upgrade" even when no such upgrading is necessary.


      Mozilla is more than capable of handling any standards compliant markup you throw at it so the whole thing stinks of anti-competitive behaviour.


      Much though I don't like this, I have to say it has one positive benefit - I don't have to look at their stinky site or inadvertantly make them money by clicking on one of the adverts. I wonder what all their advertisers think of all this?

    • Running Mozilla 0.95beta (build ID 2001101202) on Mandrake 7.2. This workaround works fine, though you have to restart Mozilla for it to take effect (since it only reads user.js on startup, apparently).

      Not that I really NEED to go to MSN, but it's nice to give Microsoft the finger.
    • Given the timing and nature of the lock-out, what credible defence can Microsoft offer that this isn't simply a blatant anti-trust violation?
    • Re:Workaround.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gerv (15179) <gervNO@SPAMgerv.net> on Thursday October 25, 2001 @03:21PM (#2479418) Homepage
      This isn't true - they are blocking Mozilla and Opera on Linux, but allowing 4.x. This makes their "it's about web standards" story rubbish.

      Gerv
    • Re:Workaround.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DeadSea (69598)
      Be aware that changing for user agent string can have unintended consequences.

      On my homepage I'm experimenting with a rather unique CSS positioning layout on the front page. Mozilla does a great job with it, IE does a poor (but readable) job with it, and NS 4 royally screws it up. To overcome this, I included some javascript that checks the user agent string and comments out the link to the stylesheet if it finds NS4.

      Basically if you are running NS4 with a false user agent string, you will see a bunch of garbage when you visit my web site.

  • either the page is poorly designed, or IE 5.5 is, because it doesn't even render correctly when i use the borg standard!!

    here's a screenshot [projectlockdown.com] of the page that i'm getting in IE 5.5.

    anybody else seeing the same thing?
  • by RedX (71326) <redx&wideopenwest,com> on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:35PM (#2478892)
    This doesn't seem to be one of those issues where MS will claim that non-IE browsers can't view MSN because of technical incompatibilities. According to the Yahoo article, Opera is claiming that MSN is actively blocking the browser depending on what name it reports to the server. Non-IE browsers that MS hasn't chosen to block are working fine, at least according to Opera.

    "Microsoft is seeing (that) it is an Opera browser and shutting it out," said Tetzchner, whose team was testing the problem Thursday. "If you change the Opera string by one letter, it is letting us in."

    • Yup. They aren't blocking NS 4.7. Anyone try NS 6.x? Does it send the same User-Agent: as Moz?

      This doesn't really make sense to me. It's either that compiled a list of browsers that are either "known to work" or "we don't compete with them so it doesn't matter" and they block everything else.

      --
      Garett
    • This sounds like paranoia to me. Its probably just bad programming. Opera certainly isn't being singled out if mozilla, lynx, etc. are also shut out. Though his claim that changing the Opera string by one letter works is intersting. Using random user-agent strings doesn't work for me.
      • Opera 5.12 for Windows cannot access MSN.com at all.

        It comes with 5 different Browser Identification settings:

        MSIE5.0, Opera, Mozilla 5.0, Mozilla 4.76, Mozilla 3.0

        None of these setting can connect to MSN.com, as of 2 minutes before this post was posted.
    • Unfortunately this "technical incompatibility" argument doesn't hold water because both the Win32 and Mac versions of IE work. This immediately rules out any of the usual spiel of the site using ActiveX/DHTML etc. because Mac IE is pretty standards compliant. If Mac IE can render the site then there's a good chance that Mozilla could too.


      To hell with them I say.

      • I noticed a couple days ago that IE 4 for Mac wasn't rendering Hotmail properly. Messages would wrap under the tools bar on the left, and then ends of sentences would be cut off.


        Tried to update it, but couldn't find IE 5 for Mac, and Netscape 6 wasn't working ethier.

  • What is causing me not having the capability to login to Hotmail with latest Mozilla(0.9.5)?
    Is this a Mozilla bug or is it an evil MS deed?

  • Attention: Web Browser Upgrade Required to View MSN.com

    If you are seeing this page, we have detected that the browser that
    you are using will not render MSN.com correctly. Additionally, you'll
    see the most advanced functionality of MSN.com only with the latest
    version of Microsoft Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer. If you wish to
    visit MSN.com, please select the appropriate download link below.
    * Internet Explorer for Windows
    * Internet Explorer for Macintosh
    * MSN Explorer for Windows
  • When M$ first realized that they miscalculated with the internet party and created msn, they would crash netscape browsers. Anyone else remember that? Luckily there wasn't anything too interesting on msn (or msnbc) at the time so it wasn't a big loss, just annoying. Also, later on when they started "embracing and extending" there were webpages that would have problems with older netscapes.
    • When M$ first realized that they miscalculated with the internet party and created msn, they would crash netscape browsers


      They and just about any other site that tried to do something other than straight text-and-jpg HTML. The fact is that Netscape browsers were buggy pieces of trash. A browser should not crash, no matter how messed up the content it receives. Period.

  • This is fucked up. I just successfully went to MSN.com with Netscape 4.72 on Linux but when I tried Mozilla 0.9.4 I got the error message.
  • It's a good thing that other browsers let you manipulate the user-agent string and trick stupid sites like this into believing that you're using IE. Of course that won't help the majority of users who don't know about features like that, but at least the option is there.

  • by TomatoMan (93630) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:37PM (#2478920) Homepage Journal
    Confirmed on Moz 0.94! Says I have to upgrade to IE for Windows or Mac, or MSN Explorer for Windows.

    I think this is great news. It means Microsoft is leaving the web and going their own way. Whatever it is they've got over there, by definition it isn't the web if it can't be viewed with a generic web browser.

    Good luck to them on their new venture, whatever it is, and happy to have them out of the way on standards issues now that they've left the web to the rest of us.
    • Whatever it is they've got over there, by definition it isn't the web if it can't be viewed with a generic web browser.

      By your definition today, that may be true. But if you know anything about language, you know that definitions change. If Microsoft has it's way, in five years "the web" might be defined as "what's viewable by Explorer."

      You know how they negotiate. Imagine the next time Macromedia goes to Microsoft with an update to Flash. MS says, yeah, we'll distribute that plug-in for you, just do this one thing for us, make sure Dreamweaver inserts this little script that tests for "browser compatibility" or maybe maybe we'll distribute our ActiveFlash (tm) plugin instead.. W'ere not furcing you, you understand, just a business deal, you help us, we help you.

      Now imaging the same thing with Adobe, and the HTML tools are all enforcing browser checks by default. All of a sudden it's a Microsoft Web.

  • by chrysalis (50680) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:37PM (#2478924) Homepage
    The workaround is easy : change your user-agent to MSIE. Opera, Links, and most HTTP proxies can do this.
    The drawback is that the percentage of clients using IE will increase, even though they are really using Mozilla or other non-IE software.
    So statistics will always show a lot of IE, even when AOL will have released AOL 6 with Gecko..


  • My first thought is, so what? Microsoft wants to limit access to its network. Dumb move.


    Dumb move in the short term, though. But with them ramping up XP, Passport and .NET, maybe they'll start doing things like only allowing software updates via MSN and therefore you have to have their browser.


    I don't know. I'm not sure if they're shooting themselves in the foot or shouting "Resistance is Futile!"


    My guess is long term, the American and European governments will use this as further evidence in any anti-trust cases.

  • Not to sound like a dick, but isn't this just as bad as that stupid Microsoft Free Friday Apache mod? Yeah, mod me down, flame me -- whatever.

    Why is it that when the underdog does something dirty it's all right? (Granted, the Apache mod was probably written by an individual [not a corp.], but still...)

    For reference: http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=01/07/02/114223 0&mode=thread
  • I have a lot of computers on my network, and I really don't feel like going to each one and changing settings to "impersonate" IE. I also have a box with junkbuster to act as a proxy. Is there any way to change the browser name in the junkbstr.ini? IIRC, junkbuster just blocks the browser name, and sets the http-refer to internet.junkbuster.com.

    Anyone out there who's done this?
    • Yes, I do it routinely. Dig through instructions and code for "user-agent" in the configuration file. You can pick one, let it pick one, compile one in, relay whatever your browser says, etc. With a little code tweaking you could even have it randomly select a different one every time. (I wonder what that would do.)
    • Yep. I use junkbuster on *nix, so the syntax might be different, but try something like:


      user-agent Mozilla/4.77 [en] (Win95;U)

    • Last I checked-- a while back, I'm running squid + squidGuard now as JunkBuster (JB) doesn't cache nor work right with OmniWeb on Mac OS X-- you had to define a string somewhere (unix version) and recompile to change the default broswer JB appears as, if you are mucking with the User-Agent.
    • I'm currently running Junkbuster on Win32 and Linux, and I can't get in, no matter what user agent I put in junkbstr.ini. If you want to try yourself, look in junkbstr.ini for a line that starts with "user-agent". Like I said, I've tried IE user agent strings, but cannot get in at all, no matter what string I try. Of course, if I turn off my evil, communist, revenue draining blocker, I have no problems.
  • Using IE to access /. , all I got was a blue screen with a message that read:

    Hi! How are you? I send you this Debian Potato in order to have your advice.

    I'm sure glad I had Mozilla. A mere seven crashes, two freezes and a cookie later, I was able to read some News That Matters.

  • In konqueror:
    Settings->Configure Konqueror->User Agent
    Simply add a new "Site/domain specific identification".
    For example, I added ".msn.com" as the domain, and used "Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 98)" as the user agent.

    Voila! I can see msn.com again! Not that it is anything spectacular to look at, but if you MUST check the site out, this works well. :)
  • "Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network."

    -Tim Berners-Lee in Technology Review, July 1996

    Microsoft seems to have forgotten the "World-Wide" part of the WWW. It still pisses me off. Not because I give a rat's ass about MSN, but because so many have forgotten the whole point of the web in the first place.

    • {donning MS bashing clothes}

      In ten years no address will start with www. It will be msw. for Microsoft Web. Of course, it will be running on MSP/IP. And the official history of MS will tout how it invented the web.

      {taking off MS bashing clothes}

      Of course, I don't think it'll come about. M$'s days of total dominance are coming to an end. They'll continue to be one of the big boys, but they're in the last, desperate throws of trying to de-commodify something and that never really works(think IBM's MCA bus). Once their management come to terms with the fact they they can no longer grow at a 20% a year clip -- which is what is driving all of this 'my way or the highway' crap -- and that they, like it or not, are going to at best have the economics of a mature, stable, boring company they'll stop all of this nonsense.

      The Bastard's prediction: M$ cannot live on hype alone. And .net is going to be nothing but hype for at least the next two years (my MS own recogning). The X-box is going to put a drag on earnings, and XP will do ok, not gangbusters but just ok.

      They're going to have to worry more about appeasing the investment community. They're used to double digit growth, and it ain't going to be there. I expect them to sell their stake in MSNBC along with some of thier telecom/cable investments (because it never bought them access, which is why they threw money at it in the first place).

      M$ banks on the ever forward march of the stock price. From employee compensation to extra money they make off of hedging their own stock to large investors. I'm afraid those days are over, and they're going to have to change with the times. Fundamental change is coming M$'s way. It won't happen overnight, but its gonna happen.
  • Not all of MSN (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TrumpetPower! (190615) <ben@trumpetpower.com> on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:42PM (#2478993) Homepage

    For the record, I'm using FreeBSD with Konqueror and Mozilla.

    Try clicking those links at the bottom of the page. You can't get to ``Terms of Use,'' but ``Advertise'' works just fine.

    b&

  • Opera 5.11 on Windows 98:

    In Opera's prefs, you can set it to identify itself as another browser, but you still get the same results when trying to go to msn.com. So they're doing something special to identify the browser besides just the http header info.

    If you go to any place within MSN, everything works fine, and you don't get the lockout message.

    If you go to msn.com with IE and view the source, you will notice that there is NOTHING in there that is IE specific code.

    They're really using their touch. Most of their attempts at deceit are this obvious.
  • MSN.com is accesible via IE on Win32 and the Mac. The very fact that the Mac version works proves that this blockage has nothing to do with the site containing controls or much IE-proprietary markup. If it did then the Mac IE wouldn't work would it?


    In fact when I save the source of the page served up to my Mac IE here, I can see that it's pretty bog-standard XHTML but otherwise nothing special. So much for MSN.com needing a "browser upgrade".

  • Right. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by fifthchild (443035)
    I gotta say, this is going too far... The legality of this move must be VERY suspect. I must disclaim here that I use Windows and IE, but fuck me if I agree with this manouvuer of theirs. Their generally shady buisness practices are sell known and never really affected the general public untill this...

    To those who already posted that they 'got in' with Netscape, the article did say that only some versions were affected... Don't make me say it...

    Ensuing flame war (enable asbestos monitor) aside, can this sort of activity be gotten away with? Is this legal? It's certainly one thing to corner a market, but locking non-MS browsers out of MSN and making such a wild claim as it won't render properly is a whole new level, even for MS. Can those out there actually qualified to give me an answer please do so? Those who just want to pontificate, you'll just be preaching to the quoir with me.

    You gotta hand it to them, they really done it this time. Now, where did I put my RedHat boot CD..?
  • Just curious, but why would you want to visit the Windows Update page with Mozilla under X? What are you trying to do, patch Linux with a Windows service pack?

    Maybe there's a reason for a non-Windows/IE person to go to MSN, but as far as I know, all of those articles are available on MSNBC.com. Insofar as I can tell, it works fine.

    So what? Microsoft has a stupid proprietary browser and a stupid proprietary site. We already knew this. That's their problem. When a site that actually does something usefull for non-Microsoft users becomes completely IE-dependant, then I'll be annoyed.

    But bitching about Windows Update not working under Mozilla/X/Linux? That's daft. No one complains about the fact that their local Ford dealership doesn't carry all the parts to fix your Saturn. Sure, it's icky what they're doing to the HTML standard, but c'mon.

  • by wiredog (43288) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:46PM (#2479044) Journal
    You need to use AOL's browser to use AOL!
    • You need to use AOL's browser to use AOL!

      One can browse aol.com quite easily with any browser. Actually connecting to AOL's service requires proprietary means, but AOL's service isn't on the web either. So, if Microsoft is going to put up a broken website that only runs through proprietary software, I think we're entitled to give them hell for being stupid.

  • if a company dominates the browser market, it's only a matter of time before they attempt to use their installed client base (browsers) as leverage to control the server market.

    That said, the site renders perfectly in NS6.1.. better than IE, even -- the font isn't TINY.
  • by tolldog (1571)
    Nescape 4.x works under IRIX.
    Mozilla does not.

    Should I be waiting for the IRIX port of IE?

    They must really hate mozilla.
  • Why are you trying to go to MSN sites anyways? All it is is Microsoft propaganga, coated with a thick layer of privacy stealing passport authentication. Anything you want to get from MSN you can get from Yahoo, including email, news, stock quotes, etc. And no M$ or Passport bullshit, not to mention that Yahoo pages are and always have been perectly compatable with ANY browser (even Lynx), cause they never fell into all the DHTML crap. And they actually have a GOOD search engine (Google)

  • MSN is one of the biggest 'comercial wastelands' on the internet today. It's almost completly worthless for anything other then the kind of brainless fluff they show on network TV and AOL. Nothing but stcok prices and lame, uncontravercial news.


  • Here's a thought.

    I sorta like what I saw in Konqueror not too long ago, the ability to present yourself to a server using several different browser identities.

    This should be a standard feature of ALL browsers.

    Prefaced, of course, with a little pop-up disclaimer stating that the subsequent content may not be displayed correctly, or securely.

    Cheers, and yes, PROPAGANDA is still running..
  • ROME - In a new development shocking faithful and infidels alike, Pope John Paul II was revealed to be a Roman Catholic. CNN broke the story shortly after noon Thursday, after an anonymous tip from a recently-excommunicated parishoner was verified by reluctant officials at the Vatican. One such official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said "Yes, I mean, it's true in the technical sense that the His Holiness is, in point of fact, Catholic." The news sparked violent protests among disillusioned churchgoers around the world. One protester in Brasilia said, "Jesus Fucking Christ, man, the Pope is Catholic? I mean, what's next, Microsoft engaging in anticompetitive business practices? I'm so disillusioned." He then proceeded to overturn and set fire to a police car.
  • by CraigoFL (201165) <slashdot AT kanook DOT net> on Thursday October 25, 2001 @02:52PM (#2479128)
    The Yahoo article has a quote from the CEO of Opera (who's browser is also locked out of MSN):
    "Microsoft is seeing (that) it is an Opera browser and shutting it out," said Tetzchner, whose team was testing the problem Thursday. "If you change the Opera string by one letter, it is letting us in."
    So, it sounds like M$ is checking the USER-AGENT HTTP header for certain strings, and displaying the "Upgrade to IE" page if yours doesn't match.

    It should be easy to get around this... like Tetzchner said, you just have to change one character in the user-agent header to break MS's lockout mechanism. I've never used Opera myself; is the functionality to change the user-agent string built into the browser? If not, it wouldn't be hard to build a simple HTTP proxy that would munge the header for you.

    A couple things of note: The first is that I received the "upgrade to IE" page when I ran msn.com through my Java HTTP header utility (Sun's Java, by default, has a user-agent string of something like "Java1.3.1_01"). This means that MSN might be breaking a lot of non-browser spiders, robots, and page scrapers out there.

    My second note is that the content of msn.com (both the upgrade page and the real page) is now written in XHTML (a version of HTML that conforms to XML specifications). My guess is that this is Microsoft's justification for forcing people to "upgrade" to IE6... they want their users to be using an XHTML-compliant browser.

  • Microsoft seems to be doing all sorts of inane things lately to annoy it's remaining customer base and drive people who would have blindly bought before to seek better alternatives [cnet.com]. I don't understand it, but I like it! ;-)

    Microsoft is boldly saying "We want to run the Internet. Standards mean nothing except when its our standard."

    I think all CS and IT people should strongly oppose this company both from the standpoint of the quality of it's engineering, and it's abysmal ethics and vision. Unix represents the best way (including Linux, *BSD and MacOS X) to fight back, and there are excellent rationales for doing so [slashdot.org].

    This is probably the best chance alternatives will ever have...let's hope they make the most of it. The reviews of RH 7.2 [zdnet.com] are an encouraging start at least!

    299,792,458 m/s...not just a good idea, its the law!

  • I remember a few years back when Microsoft bought the Internet Gaming Zone site, it suddenly stopped accepting the Netscape browser as a client. It took many moons before MS let Netscape people back in by 'fixing it', but by then, I'm sure anyone really interested in the site had gone and installed IE to view it.

    Embrace...extend...extinguish...
  • With the Mozilla build from this morning on Win32, I get the following errors loading the page:
    • There are three horizontal rules on the page which are shown as grooves, rather than the solid dark lines they should be.
    • One or two parts of the page are positioned slightly wrong, although nothing is ever obscured.

    Translation: MS is lying to users. Not that this is the first time they've done it, but I guess it just goes to show that they're up to their old tricks.
  • Everyone breate deeply, and point their Windows-based Netscape browser to www.msn.com. No errors whatsoever for me. Try it before you panic.
  • from Linux oriented sites blocking IE users? I've encountered this several times when trying to access them from workstations at work. End result? I don't revisit those sites as I don't want someone telling me what browser to use. Period.

    If we kick and scream about Microsoft doing it, then we need to make sure that we aren't playing the same game.

    RD
    • The problem with your argument is that there is, in fact, a monolithic "they" (Microsoft). There is no monolithic "we" to chastise for this practice. Slashdot is not responsible for looney behavior of other webmasters, even if the looneys are using Slash code. Nor am I. Nor are you. So there is no "we" that is "playing the same game".
  • I just tried to go to hotmail with netscape 4.7... and got the following message:



    JavaScript required. The browser that you are using does not support JavaScript, or you may have disabled JavaScript.

    [...snipped..]

    Are you using a browser that doesn't support JavaScript?

    If your browser does not support JavaScript, you can upgrade to a newer browser, such as Internet Explorer 5.

    Do you have JavaScript disabled?

    If you have JavaScript disabled, you must enable JavaScript to sign in. Instructions are listed below.


    it then gives instructions for how to turn JS on for IE, and then...

    Other browsers

    To see if your browser supports JavaScript, and for detailed instructions about how to enable this feature, see the online Help for your browser.


    And YES... I DO browse with JavaScript turned on.


  • lynx -useragent="Mozilla/4.7 [en] (X11; I; SunOS 5.8 sun4u)" http://www.msn.com/


    Furthermore, MSN never looked better! Few graphics, no CSS-font-enlargment, not even a white background. It looks positively old-school, if you ask me. Unfortunately, the rest of the site is just as bloated as usual.

    This does not work:

    lynx http://www.msn.com/


    This gets me the upgrade-your-browser page. After some more investigation, I find that the minimal User-Agent string needed to get the minimal MSN home page, is: "Mozilla/4.7". "Mozilla" alone does not work, nor does "Mozilla/4" or "Mozilla/4.1". But any string like "Mozilla/4.$x" where $x -gt 4, works fine. You can include the additional User-Agent components if you like, but they do not seem to matter.
  • The feature story on Yahoo tomorrow, of course, will be "Oh, we were just joking about the MSN not letting in other web browsers"

    It will be shown tomorrow that a not-identified Yahoo executve bet Microsoft's Bill Gates 1 dollar that he could triple the page views of MSN.COM while pissing off the open source crew. Bill Gates, of course [one never to forego a challenge] took this bet. Commenting on the way things turned out, Bill said "Well, you win some, you lose some... this, though, was the most entertainment I got for a buck"

    Back to you, john...
  • Um, you guys are falling for it.

    This is a stunt. MS will relent within a week or two. They're doing this to drum up more PR for the XP release. It keeps their names in the headlines.

    Bad publicity is better than no publicity.

    A week, maybe two weeks from now (probably after the XBOX) they'll relent, redesign the MSN site slightly, and allow all browsers access.
  • Quick, let's all make the MSN server Slashdotted and force it to run that anti-Mozilla script until it does a backflip faceplant. :-)
  • I just don't get them... MS is in an anti-trust case against them for leveraging thier monopoly to take over the browser market and now they do this?!? What are they thinking of ... I just hope the DOJ don't miss this. I would have thought they would have been timid with anything close to this kind of stuff until AFTER the court case is over.
  • by ackthpt (218170) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @03:10PM (#2479316) Homepage Journal
    If the page can't be viewed, even in vanilla HTML, then MSN.com has made an amature blunder. You don't design pages to keep people out, particularly where advertisers will be barred from reaching an audience.

    Sure, it stinks to high heaven like a typically corrupt monopolist move (but they wouldn't do that would they?), and consider how ISP's have been switching over to MSN as their default portal for users, this would be an error. Right? Yes, just like putting the fox in the hen house and nailing the door shut. You can count on him to look after the best interest of the chickens.

    This alleged ongoing effort to lock people into everything Microsoft would be an open admission that their software and systems are so bad that they can't sell on their own merits. But they wouldn't do these things, thus admitting to that, would they?

  • by mystery_bowler (472698) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @03:55PM (#2479674) Homepage
    I'm going to get flamed for this...

    As terrible as it is that Microsoft is prohibiting other web browsers from accessing MSN, it's not as if Microsoft has a monopoly on news and content on the web (at least not yet). As a company, they can decide how they want their content rendered and if IE (no matter how self-serving it is) is the only browser that does the job perfectly, then so be it.

    I develop web applications and there are times when a client asks for something that simply isn't feasible (or perhaps possible) in Netscape 4.x, so we inform the client of that and, effectively, prohibit them from using Netscape 4.x to access the application. I don't see much of a difference here.

    Now I would see a major difference if there weren't news and content alternatives (and plenty of them) to MSN. Heck, IMO they could limit access to only IP addresses that are on the MSN network. Didn't Prodigy do that?

    Yeah, it's self-serving and perhaps borderline unethical. But it's not illegal (yet) and if they want to make a sight that uses IE features they can't guarantee are supported in other browers, that's their call.

    • by Pollux (102520)
      Yeah, it's self-serving and perhaps borderline unethical. But it's not illegal (yet) and if they want to make a sight that uses IE features they can't guarantee are supported in other browers, that's their call.

      You're right, and we face this on the internet every day. Say I visit a site that says that to view the site, I need Macromedia Shockwave. Well, if I really want to view the site, I'll download Macromedia Shockwave. If I want to say, "Screw that...I'm not going to give Macromedia the edge in my WWW viewing," that's my right as well.

      But here's the problem: Microsoft isn't saying, "Hey, we use special things here, and if you want to view the webpage, you need this special software." No, Redmond's saying this:

      "We do identify the string from the browser, and the only issue that we have is that the Opera browser doesn't support the latest XHTML standard," said Visse. "So we do suggest to those users that they go download a browser that does support the latest standards."

      Well, let's just go visit Mozilla.org's website for a second...if you look here [mozilla.org], you'll read at the top of the page that, Mozilla has good support for XML. Several World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Recommendations and drafts from the XML family of specifications are supported, as well as other related technologies.

      So, Mozilla supports XHTML, but for some strange reason, msn.com says it doesn't. As Chris Farley would say, "Hmm...That's a mystery!"

      Oh, this is good! Check this out...
      Okay, folks, here's the kicker. While I was looking around at this, a thought occured to me. Let's just go down and check out www.w3c.org and see if the guys who made the standards actually say that MSN is playing by their rules. So, this lead me to W3's Validation site [w3.org], where I typed in www.msn.com into the XHTML validation field, here's what I got in return (abridged, but the key points are there)...

      URL: www.msn.com
      Server: Microsoft-IIS/5.0
      Content Length: 1462
      Detected Character Encoding: utf-8
      Document Type: XHTML 1.0 Strict

      Below are the results of checking this document for XML well-formedness and validity.

      ...(four errors listed, but omitted for space)

      Sorry, this document does not validate as XHTML 1.0 Strict.

      If you use CSS in your document, you should also check it for validity using the W3C CSS Validation Service.

      ---

      But nothing, nothing comes close to just proving how dirty Microsoft is playing than this statement right here at the bottom of the page: (- character used to show XHTML script included in webpage)

      ---

      Below is the source input I used for this validation:

      1: -?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8" ?--!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"--html xmlns="http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml">Attention: Web Browser Upgrade Required to View MSN.com-/title--base href="http://go.msn.com/" />Attention: Web Browser Upgrade Required to View MSN.com

      If you are seeing this page, we have detected that the browser that you are using will not render MSN.com correctly. Additionally, you'll see the most advanced functionality of MSN.com only with the latest version of Microsoft Internet Explorer or MSN Explorer. If you wish to visit MSN.com, please select the appropriate download link below.

      ©2001 Microsoft Corporation.ÂÂAll rights reserved.Terms of Use [slashdot.org]Advertise [slashdot.org]TRUSTe Approved Privacy Statement [slashdot.org]GetNetWise [slashdot.org]

      ---

      Can you believe this? MSN actually told the W3C standard comittee that their own standards did not work with MSN! That's a laugh riot right there.

      So, Case in Point: If Microsoft were to flat out say, "Hey! We don't care about you guys with the other browsers! Our website only looks good with IE and that's the way it's going to be," then I'd grumble and go on with my business. But Microsoft says that they're conforming to the standards presented in XHTML by W3C, when in fact W3C says that www.msn.com does not comply with their standards.

      This is outright monopolization at it's worst.
  • Client identifiers (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ftobin (48814) on Thursday October 25, 2001 @03:58PM (#2479689) Homepage

    I've been thinking about this for a while, and prompted by this scenario, I've come to the conclusion that protocols that let client-identifying strings go through is just asking for discrimination and phony statistics.

    Many protocols use client identifers, such as HTTP, SSH, and OpenPGP. However, I'm not seeing any true purpose for having these identifiers stuck into the messages used in these protocols. Perhaps at one time they were used so that workarounds for buggy clients could be made, but the problem there is with the buggy client. Nowdays, however, checking client identifiers, be it via user-agent or Javascript tests, it is used to discriminate against certain clients.

    Futhermore, many clients probably lie about what what they are, in order to get a server to listen to them. This is sad, because it creates false statistics about what the client percentage breakdown really is. In addition to this problem, the statistics themselves create a snowballing effect, suggesting to server-admins to only 'support' certain clients, and suggesting to end-users that 'everyone' is using a certain client and they should too.

    Just as justice is supposed to be blind, I feel the same should be said about servers; they should have no knowledge of what client it is that is accessing them.

    As more and more services become network-enabled, we should be wary of any protocol that implements a client-identifier. Or else we will see more of the same discrimination.

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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