Spoofing Browser Agents

I mentioned yesterday that the only way to use Lexis-Nexis with Mozilla is to “spoof” your browser agent, to pretend to be Netscape. Dan’s Web Tips has an interesting article describing the problems with spoofed user agents. He makes a very good point: certain websites only allow Internet Explorer (or maybe IE and Netscape), so in order to get in, you have to pretend to be using one of those browsers. The site administrators see that everyone trying to access their site is using IE, and so they get the impression they’re not excluded anyone. The result is a vicious circle where alternative browser marketshare is underestimated because of the unreliability of user agent strings, and site administrators don’t think they need to fix anything.


  1. Adam Funk Jan 28

    You said that spoofing user-agents encourages webmasters to keep browser restrictions in place. If they really look at their logs, they’ll see an IP address coming to the site with an “unsupported” browser and getting an error page, followed by the same IP address a minute later with a spoofed agent string. They may notice the pattern and realize what’s going on.

  2. Adam Rosi-Kessel Jan 28

    Interesting hypothesis. It could be, though, that the webmaster will think, “oh, good, they switched from the unsupported browser to the right one.” Every Windows system has IE, so if the switch is from Windows Firefox to Windows IE, then it seems to me that either inference is equally likely.

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