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Friday, 20 December 2019 09:16

Vivaldi changes user agent string to avoid issues on websites

Vivaldi Technologies chief executive Jon von Tetzchner. Vivaldi Technologies chief executive Jon von Tetzchner. Supplied

Norway-based Vivaldi Technologies, developer of the browser of the same name, says it has issued an update to change the browser's user agent string to Chrome in order that it would work on all websites.

The company said in a statement that Vivaldi was based on Chromium, the open-source Google browser, and therefore should theoretically work on any website that worked with Chrome, Google's proprietary browser.

But it had been met with the error message "incompatible websites" often, as the user agent string was given as Vivaldi.

"Vivaldi users regularly encounter messages that they have to upgrade their browsers or the site will not work," the statement said.

"Although Vivaldi has made workarounds for a few of these issues, this is happening on too many sites and some are hard to fix."

Vivaldi quality assurance lead Ruarí Ødegaard cited some of the issues that people had been encountering:

  • "On Google.com if you present a Vivaldi user agent and arrive via a redirect, the search text box will be misaligned;
  • "On Google Docs if you present a Vivaldi user agent you will receive a warning;
  • "On Facebook’s WhatsApp web interface if you present a Vivaldi user agent, you cannot enter the site and are advised to switch to one of our competitors;
  • "On Microsoft Teams (chat and collaboration website), presenting a Vivaldi user agent will stop you from being able to use the website; and
  • "On Netflix, presenting a Vivaldi user agent results in a suggestion to install Silverlight to play videos… yes… really… Silverlight!"

After the new update, the statement said these issues will disappear. "For the uninitiated, a browser sends its “user agent” to every website you connect to. A user agent is a string – that is, a line of text – identifying the browser to the web server, including the version number and operating system," the company explained.

Vivaldi Technologies chief executive Jon von Tetzchner said: "The primary reason to show Vivaldi in the user agent is a level of pride. That pride, however, is hurting us, as our competitors and others are using this to block us from their services.

“That is why with today’s update, we’ve drawn a line in the sand so that you can browse more websites without a glitch.”

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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