Sniffing The User Agent

Sun's Suttor criticized the use of Internet-sniffing technology to steer users toward a specific browser that may not be of their choosing.

"Imagine you went to Starbucks and you told them your name and they said, 'We don't like your last name and you get a [poor] cup of coffee.' There would be a revolt. Why [then] do we tolerate servers sniffing the user agent?" said Suttor. "In the future, the Web is going to escape the browser, and I think that's going to be a very good thing," Suttor said. Infoworld

I'm not quite sure if I completely agree with this, although I would welcome more browser-independent web content, particularly as I don't generally use MS Internet Explorer. If Starbucks could 'sniff' the user-agent (me) and ascertain that I was, say, Lactose Intolerant, would I complain if it offered me a 'Grand Latte' made with some milk substitute? While I might resent the invasion of my privacy, I don't think I would argue that I was being disenfranchised.

While there is much to be said for offering everything to all-comers, and letting them make their choice, would you want large amounts of rich, bandwidth-heavy media content sent to your cellphone web-browser, so that it had the 'choice' of rejecting the parts it could not use?

It seems to me that the web cannot escape the client - accessing web content will always involve a certain amount of negotiation between client and server.

This was previously published at and was retrieved from the Internet Archive

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