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What Does Your User Agent Say About You?

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A user agent is a computer program representing a person, for example, a browser in a Web context.

Besides a browser, a user agent could be a bot scraping webpages, a download manager, or another app accessing the Web. Along with each request they make to the server, browsers include a self-identifying User-Agent HTTP header called a user agent (UA) string. This string often identifies the browser, its version number, and its host operating system.

Spam bots, download managers, and some browsers often send a fake UA string to announce themselves as a different client. This is known as user agent spoofing.

The user agent string can be accessed with JavaScript on the client side using the navigator.userAgent property.

A typical user agent string looks like this: "Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Ubuntu; Linux x86_64; rv:35.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/35.0".

(Source: Mozilla.org)

User Agent String

Browser Data

User Agent Browser Version

author
Brent Mccoy
• Monday, 19 October, 2020
• 8 min read

There are ways to develop your website to progressively enhance itself based on the availability of features rather than by targeting specific browsers. Using the user agent to detect the browser looks simple, but doing it well is, in fact, a very hard problem.

browser user agent mozilla windows nt web firefox gecko whats jp wow64 gp
(Source: www.howtogeek.com)

Contents

Also, experts, or people with another point of view, can give you ideas for working around the bug. If the problem seems uncommon, it's worth checking if this bug has been reported to the browser vendor via their bug tracking system (Mozilla ; WebKit ; Blink ; Opera).

Your site needs to use a specific Web feature that some browsers don't yet support, and you want to send those users to an older Website with fewer features but that you know will work. This is the worst reason to use user agent detection because odds are eventually all the other browsers will catch up.

In those rare cases where behavior differs between browsers, instead of checking the user agent string, you should instead implement a test to detect how the browser implements the API and determine how to use it from that. It assumed that the look behind feature would always be available if the browser was Chrome.

Support could have been added to other browsers at any time, but this code would have continued choosing the inferior path. As the above code demonstrates, there is always a way to test browser support without user agent sniffing.

For example, in the above code snippets, using look behind in short-regexp notation (e.g. /reg/IGM) will cause a parser error in unsupported browsers. Progressive enhancement This design technique involves developing your Website in 'layers', using a bottom-up approach, starting with a simpler layer and improving the capabilities of the site in successive layers, each using more features.

agent user change useragent browser extensions installing without any preference override general
(Source: www.howtogeek.com)

Graceful degradation This is a top-down approach in which you build the best possible site using all the features you want, then tweak it to make it work on older browsers. People use user agent sniffing to detect if the users' device is touch-friendly and has a small screen, so they can optimize their website accordingly.

While user agent sniffing can sometimes detect these, not all devices are the same: some mobile devices have big screened sizes, some desktops have a small touchscreen, some people use smart TV's which are an entirely different ballgame altogether, and some people can dynamically change the width and height of their screen by flipping their tablet on its side! Rather, add in touch conveniences such as bigger, more easily clickable buttons (you can do this using CSS by increasing the font size).

Here is an example of code that increases the padding of #exampleButton to 1em on mobile devices. This effect can be easily achieved using CSS flex boxes, sometimes with floats as a partial fallback. Also try to move less relevant/important information down to the bottom and group the page's content together meaningfully.

Although it is off-topic, perhaps the following detailed example might give you insights and ideas that persuade you to forgo user agent sniffing. The boxes can be separated into multiple columns via two equally fair method.

The second method uses a Column layout and resents all the dogs to the left and all the cats to the right. Only in this particular scenario, it is appropriate to provide no fallback for the flex boxes/multi columns, resulting in a single column of very wide boxes on old browsers.

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(Source: www.phpclasses.org)

If more people visit the webpage to see the cats, then it might be a good idea to put all the cats higher in the source code than the dogs so that more people can find what they are looking for faster on smaller screens where the content collapses down to one column. Next, always make your code dynamic. The user can flip their mobile device on its side, changing the width and height of the page.

Or, there might be some weird flip-phone-like device thing in the future where flipping it out extends the screen. The simplest way to do this is to separate all the code that moves content around based on screen size to a single function that is called when the page is loaded and at each resize event thereafter.

Also note that there is a huge difference between the media queries (max-width: 25em), not all and (min-width: 25em), and (max-width: 24.99em) : (max-width: 25em) excludes (max-width: 25em), whereas not all and (min-width: 25em) includes (max-width: 25em). Always be very deliberate about choosing the right media query and choosing the right >=, , >, or < in any corresponding JavaScript because it is very easy to get these mixed up, resulting on the website looking working right at the screen size where the layout changes.

One such case is using user agent sniffing as a fallback when detecting if the device has a touch screen. Internet Explorer (on Windows) and WebKit (on iOS) are two perfect examples.

WebKit is a bit worse because Apple forces all the browsers on IOS to use WebKit internally, thus the user has no way to get a better more updated browser on older devices. For example, WebKit 6 has a bug whereby when the device orientation changes, the browser might not fire MediaQueryList listeners when it should.

agent wireshark user windows host line using chrome users hosts x64 figure google operating microsoft
(Source: unit42.paloaltonetworks.com)

Most browsers set the name and version in the format BrowserName/VersionNumber, with the notable exception of Internet Explorer. So to detect Safari you have to check for the Safari string and the absence of the Chrome string, Chromium often reports itself as Chrome too or Sea monkey sometimes reports itself as Firefox.

Also, pay attention not to use a simple regular expression on the BrowserName, user agents also contain strings outside the Keyword/Value syntax. There are five major rendering engines: Trident, Gecko, Presto, Blink, and WebKit.

It is therefore important to pay attention not to trigger false-positives when detecting the rendering engine. Must containGeckoGecko/xyzWebKitAppleWebKit/pay attention, WebKit browsers add a 'like Gecko' string that may trigger false positive for Gecko if the detection is not careful. PrestoOpera/XYZ Note: Presto is no longer used in Opera browser builds >= version 15 (see 'Blink')Trident Trident/Internet Explorer put this token in the comment part of the Sergeant StringEdgeHTMLEdge/the non-Chromium Edge puts its engine version after the Edge/ token, not the application version.

Note: Edge HTML is no longer used in Edge browser builds >= version 79 (see 'Blink'). BlinkChrome/XYZ Most rendering engines put the version number in the RenderingEngine/VersionNumber token, with the notable exception of Gecko. The Operating System is given in most Sergeant strings (although not web-focused platforms like Firefox OS), but the format varies a lot.

They indicate the OS, but also often its version and information on the relying on hardware (32 or 64 bits, or Intel/PPC for Mac). Like in all cases, these strings may change in the future, one should use them only in conjunction with the detection of already released browsers.

browser web android desktop browsers websites display version agent user webcazine
(Source: www.webcazine.com)

A technological survey must be in place to adapt the script when new browser versions are coming out. The most common reason to perform user agent sniffing is to determine which type of device the browser runs on.

Never assume that a browser or a rendering engine only runs on one type of device. Never use the OS token to define if a browser is on mobile, tablet or desktop.

Internet Explorer Immobile/XYZ token in the comment. Mozilla/5.0 (compatible; MSI 9.0; Windows Phone OS 7.5; Trident/5.0; Immobile/9.0)Edge on Windows 10 Mobile/XYZ & Edge/ tokens outside the comment. Mozilla/5.0 (Windows Phone 10.0; Android 6.0.1; Xbox; Xbox One) Apple WebKit/537.36 (HTML, like Gecko) Chrome/58.0.3029.110 Mobile Safari/537.36 Edge/16.16299In summary, we recommend looking for the string “Mob” anywhere in the Sergeant to detect a mobile device. If the device is large enough that it's not marked with “Mob”, you should serve your desktop site (which, as a best practice, should support touch input anyway, as more desktop machines are appearing with touchscreens).

Platform identifiers change based on the operating system being used, and version numbers also increment as time passes. Mapping UA string tokens to a more human-readable browser name for use in code is a common pattern on the web today.

When mapping the new Edge token to a browser name, Microsoft recommends using a different name than the one developer used for the legacy version of Microsoft Edge to avoid accidentally applying any legacy workarounds that are not applicable to Chromium-based browsers. When Microsoft is notified about these types of issues, website owners are contacted and informed about the updated UA.

user agent firefox extension zone switchers restart needed bottom works simple line
(Source: www.extension.zone)

In these cases, Microsoft uses a list of UA overrides in our Beta and Stable channels to maximize compatibility for users who access these sites. Each header contains details that help the server determine the best way to provide the information that you requested.

Whenever you browse the internet, any server is able to identify your web browser and the host OS of your system. It encodes the browser version, operating system and other small features to the server.

It’s not a big deal, it’s just a small trick that can do wonders in many cases. Google Chrome is one of the most powerful web browsers for all platforms.

I’d love to fool servers with Linux host despite running on Windows. Opera is a Chrome-based browser, sharing a lot of similarities in the core.

My UA finds your desktop, tablet, pad and mobile user agents Newsreaders, screen readers and other web-related applications and systems act as agents as well.

agent user specific browser device chrome change instance safari ios able iphone select version
(Source: www.addictivetips.com)

Many enterprise applications check browser type and versions due mostly to heavy customization of the UI and to ensure an optimal experience. The user is typically denied access without the application’s “certified” browser or is notified the experience will be less than optimal.

Other Articles You Might Be Interested In

01: Html Css User Agent Stylesheet
02: Httpclient User Agent Set
03: Http Request Header User Agent
04: Http User Agent Format
05: Webbrowser Control User Agent
06: Web Browser User Agent List
07: Npm User Agent Parser
Sources
1 www.npmjs.com - https://www.npmjs.com/package/useragent
2 www.npmjs.com - https://www.npmjs.com/package/user-agent-parser
3 www.npmjs.com - https://www.npmjs.com/package/ua-parser-js
4 developer.aliyun.com - https://developer.aliyun.com/mirror/npm/package/user-agent-parser
5 www.npmjs.com - https://www.npmjs.com/package/user-agent
6 github.com - https://github.com/3rd-Eden/useragent
7 gist.github.com - https://gist.github.com/nakayuki805/9781696
8 github.com - https://github.com/faisalman/ua-parser-js
9 developers.whatismybrowser.com - https://developers.whatismybrowser.com/