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posted by martyb on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:05PM   Printer-friendly
from the all-your-user-agent-are-belong-to-us dept.

Chrome Phasing out Support for User Agent

Google announced its decision to drop support for the User-Agent string in its Chrome browser. Instead, Chrome will offer a new API called Client Hints that will give the user greater control over which information is shared with websites.

[...] When Netscape came out,[...] it adopted the User-Agent string and added additional details such as the operating system, language, etc. These details helped websites to deliver the right content for the user, though in reality, the primary use case for the User-Agent string became browser sniffing.

[...] Browser sniffing continued to play a significant part in determining the browser capabilities for many years, which led to an unfortunate side effect where smaller browser vendors had to mimic popular User-Agents to display the correct website - as many companies only supported the major User-Agent types.

With JavaScript popularity rising, most developers have started using libraries such as Modernizer, which detects the specific capabilities of the browser, as this provides much more accurate results.

As a result, the most significant usage for the User-Agent remained within the advertising industry, where companies used it to 'fingerprint' users, a practice that many privacy advocates found to be problematic - mainly as most users had limited options to disable/mask those details.

If advertisers (other than Google) are unable to fingerprint our browsers we might be condemned to having fewer ads on our web pages to watch.

[A more in-depth article is available on ZDNet; the entire Client Hints proposal is available on GitHub. This is subject to modification — but it has been under development since at least January of 2019 — so don't wait for it to get formally adopted if you have any issues with it; get your feedback in soon.-Ed.]

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  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:46PM (2 children)

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:46PM (#975563) Journal

    What would happen, I wonder, if a user agent indicated one of the text mode browsers? []

    Maybe a web site would know that you are too unfortunate to have JavaScript, blinking seizure inducing animated GIFs, local storage, and other such wonderful features; and the site would taylor the content accordingly. Suppose you could falsely indicate that browser as your user agent in order to avoid the web site sending you JavaScript and animated GIFs, etc.?

    Biden must DO SOMETHING to stop bloggers using the wrong color schemes!
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  • (Score: 2) by takyon on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:56PM (1 child)

    by takyon (881) <> on Wednesday March 25 2020, @06:56PM (#975567) Journal
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Pino P on Thursday March 26 2020, @01:04AM

      by Pino P (4721) on Thursday March 26 2020, @01:04AM (#975660) Journal

      The MDN article "Implementing feature detection" describes ways to test for features using script once script is already running on a page. It doesn't describe ways to determine whether ECMAScript 6 syntax can be used in inline script in the first place. It mentions the @supports selector but doesn't really explain how to determine the presence of CSS features for users of IE or older Safari, which lack @supports, when script is turned off. And there are still a bunch of things Modernizr can't detect [] even if the user has chosen to enable script on your domain.