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Re: Microsoft IE -- it just gets better and better (fwd)

From: Mike Meyer <mwm@contessa.phone.net>
Date: Sat, 27 Jan 1996 00:41:03 PST
Message-Id: <19960127.7576CF8.A67@contessa.phone.net>
To: www-talk@w3.org
>    User-Agent may not be the most technologically whiz-bang thing
> you can think of for content-negotiation, but it works.
If it works, then why did MS and others feel the need to use it (*)
the way they did. The fact is, it DOESN'T work. The group doing the
best job I know of distinguishes a couple of dozen user agents - out
of the roughly thousand or so out there.

This IS content negotiation. Servers provide the pages with the best
markup to Mozilla. If you want that content, you can either say you
are Mozilla, or convince thousands of webmasters to fix their
software.  Guess which is easier? Since there are no standards, if you
can deal with the common cases, you do it.

>    Your justifying Microsoft's mockery of it is a slap-in-the-face to
> all the people who are working their collective ass off in a monumental,
> cooperative, and VOLUNTEER effort to create a set of standards that
> will allow the Net to grow and thrive.

No, it's a slap in the face of the people who are ignoring the efforts
to build a mechanism that allows sane deployment of minor changes to a
MIME type. Or can you point me to the mail list of people trying to
standardize the use of the user-agent field and write a spec suitable
for use in an RFC for the netscape extensions?

>    In short,
>    1) the User-Agent tag is USEFUL.

Yes. For content negotiation it's almost as useful as a boulder when
you need a spare tire.

>    2) Your comment is an insult to the people who have been trying
>       to make sense of all of this.

The people I see trying to make sense of this (the http and html
working groups) are generally ignoring the user-agent field, and
trying to fix the mechanisms that have been around longer than
NetScape so they can deal with finer grain issues than they were
designed for. This problem would never have happened if there weren't
two different things running around with the type "text/html".

>    3) Microsoft has just made life that much more difficult for
>       those of us who have been successfully negotiating content
>       based on the User-Agent tag.

I've been seeing a lot of snake oil on the web lately, and I've always
considered content negotiation based on user agent as such.  Convince
me I'm wrong, and that you're successfully negotiating content based
on user-agent. Tell me how you treat emacs-w3? IBrowse? Charlotte?


(*) They used it - they did the thing that gets the best results for
THEIR users. Not using it at all would mean they got
least-common-denominator behavior from all sites, and probably that
from most of them into the forseeable future. Tagging it as Mozilla
means they get the appropriate result in a lot of cases, and some
small fraction of breakage. If it works, their users win. If it
doesn't work, it provides extra incentive for the webmasters to update
their software to correclty recognize MSIE - and their users win
again. That this usage doesn't agree with your usage is the price you
pay for working in an area where there are no documented standards.
Received on Saturday, 27 January 1996 03:48:10 UTC

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