[OT] Help with question about web page access

From: O. Sharp <ohh_at_drizzle.com>
Date: Mon Aug 16 17:27:20 2004

Jerome H. Fine wrote, in part:

> Last week, the web site that I usually access in a very standard
> manner using Windows 98 SE / Netscape 4.78 no longer provides
> the information I used to obtain. The reason is that the company
> which controls access to the web site decided to add additional
> features which require the use of at least Netscape 7.0 by the user.


> Based on the information on the error page, would a normal user
> be ALSO expected to look at the "required browsers" link when
> the specific naming of Netscape 4.x was (and still was when this
> post was made) displayed as an acceptable browser when I
> forgot to turn cookies ON?

Hard to say without seeing the web-site in question, but at the least
(from your description) it sound like they haven't got their various
"what-browsers-are-acceptable" pages in sync. I'd be annoyed if I were
you. :)

> Could the company have continued to allow users access to the
> web site under Netscape 4.78 by the expedient of NOT
> providing those users the additional features that users of
> Netscape 7.0 and later are provided? NAMELY, do the
> fellows setting up the program have the ability to check as to
> which version of Netscape is being used and could the program
> have retained the old code for those users who stayed with
> Netscape 4.78 and used to new code for those users who
> shifted to Netscape 7.0 and later?

We're moving our library around, so my relevant books are hiding; but
from memory, yes, it's possible. HTTP requests are sent with a handful of
environmental variables, including brand and version of the browser
making the request. A server can read the $ENV info when the page request
is made, and reply appropriately (or, in your case, reply annoyingly). It
could, therefore, give you a version of the content laid out for older

The problem, though, is that doing so is labor-intensive: it means more
of a workload on the server if it has to select or transform content based
on what version of browser is making the request; and more, it's a
significantly greater workload on the site maintainers if they have to
update, maintain and test differing versions of the same website.

O'course, I've long held the opinion that - except in the cases of
multimedia-bells-and-whistles websites, which are by their nature heavily
dependent on what the receiving browser can handle - designing a site
that requires "Browser X" to be readable is both counterproductive and
against the site's own interest. Why put together a web presence at all
if you're going to bar a bunch of potential readers from seeing it at
the outset? Why make an effort to communicate your message to the world if
you're simultaneously going to put up a technology barrier to make sure
half the people you're trying to reach can't access it? If you're going to
write something, don't you want people to _read_ it?

...Whew. I feel better now. Sorry, the fever will pass. :)

Anyway, it may be simplest to just bite the damnable lead bullet and get
a browser upgrade. Mozilla's Firefox may be the way to go:
I've developed a great fondness for Phoenix, one of Firefox's recent
ancestors (http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/releases/0.5.html).
I agree that changing browsers so you can receive content is irritating,
but it's probably less irritating than trying to convince some site
manager to change their technology-drunk method of thinking. (O'course, it
may be most morally satisfying to just send them a hostile e-mail telling
them you'll nevber view their stupid site ever again until they change
their heinous ways. <g>)

     (...whose site is viewable with everything from Lynx
                 onward, thank you very much)
Received on Mon Aug 16 2004 - 17:27:20 BST

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