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Opera Browser Usage and Support Forum

Opera "borks" MSN
Cnet article

 5:45 pm on Feb 14, 2003 (gmt 0)
Looks like Opera is getting fiesty with MSN in response to MSN serving up faulty CSS pages to non-IE browsers.

Now if you send a different CSS to different browsers, is that a form of cloaking?



 5:46 pm on Feb 14, 2003 (gmt 0)





 7:25 pm on Feb 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe we should all block IE from our sites? ;)

Or .. just serve it standards compliant code (which obviously would make a page look distorted in IE) :)


 7:33 pm on Feb 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

I had to download it and try it. I guess if a lot of people do that, Opera will make it's point. I wonder if this will make MS block Opera completely?


 12:25 am on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Very interesting.


 1:00 am on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Just a thought...

Most webmasters spend hours trying to tweak our sites so that they work for all browsers so that they can get more visitors. We spend ages trying to get Netscape to render our CSS pages before going back top HTML.

But, what if you are MSN and don't need any more visitors? Maybe they don't need the hassle of tweaking their site for every little browser that comes out. Surely the decision about who MSN will let into their site is up to MSN? Like a club's door policy.

If you are an Opera user you should expect that not all sites will work with your browser. This stunt by Opera is just a way to get PR for thir browser. It doesn't make me, or most users, want to change from IE.

jeremy goodrich

 1:09 am on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

It's not about 'compatibility' crisscross. Perhaps you should read some of the background data?

MSN was purposefully feeding different stuff that wouldn't work to Opera users.

The stuff they were serving wasn't even the same as they gave to users with IE.

Yes, it was a PR stunt by Opera - but it highlights a very important issue. :)

Is it just a PR stunt when MSN does it? No, it's deliberate, anti competitive, action.


 3:47 am on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's not the issue crisscross, the issue is denying service. All you have to do is run a proxy that fakes your agent name as IE 100% and you are in with a perfect page.

What we are talking about is pure and simple discrimination.


 4:09 am on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Well said Brett!

It's one thing not to bother tweaking your site to suit every browser on the market - and a completely different thing to tweak it not to suit a certain browser.


 10:53 am on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Maybe a better way of exploring this issue is to ask the following questions:

1. What right does a webmaster have to stop browsers coming to a site?

For example, we may ban an abusive user's IP. How far can we go?

2. What rights do users have to view a site?

Can users expect to see a site rendered properly if they use a non-standard browser? Could an opera user take MSN to court for discrimination?


 12:24 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Can users expect to see a site rendered properly if they use a non-standard browser?

If this non-starndard browser follows the web standards set by W3C, the users of this browser can expect that a standards-compliant web page renders properly.

I have a question for you: Can users of a non-standard browser expect to be served a faulty style sheet that wouldn't work in ANY browser, not even those "standard browsers"?

troels nybo nielsen

 1:03 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

> But, what if you are MSN and don't need any more visitors?

1. Stop forcing Hotmail users to visit MSN when they log out of their Hotmail account.

2. Stop forcing IE users to visit MSN when they type a URL that IE will not or cannot find.


 1:09 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

As for the last one, you can customize it so it won't visit MSN if the URL can't be found ..

troels nybo nielsen

 1:40 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Thanks. And sorry for complaining about something that appears to be my own fault.


 3:00 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

The "Bork" version just shows a white page for me when I browse to msn.com. Looks like MS is fighting back.


 3:22 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

>is to ask the following questions:

Better questions would be:

Can a resturant owner deny service to people having the wrong color of

Can a city make people in jeans take a seat in the back of the bus?

And can a website deny service because a persons browser reports itself to be that of its competition?


 5:31 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)


I would like to believe that MSN is trying to do this because they don't want any more visitors but that is not the case. This is another Microsoft bully tactic used to have people go 'eww opera is making pages look bad...lets go back to IE' If they spent the time to make sure the page came up bad then they can spend the time to make it look good for Opera. This is just pathetic and frustrating to the consumers. Besides you can never have enough traffic =]


 7:23 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

The funny thing is, they don't have to try to make it look good in Opera. Just serve it the same stuff IE gets, and the page will look exactly the same!

troels nybo nielsen

 7:48 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yup, I use one single CSS file and it validates and apart from a few very minor differences the pages look identical in IE, Opera and Mozilla.


[edited by: troels_nybo_nielsen at 8:09 pm (utc) on Feb. 15, 2003]


 7:55 pm on Feb 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

> The "Bork" version just shows a white page for me when I browse to msn.com. Looks like MS is fighting back.

It may be a bug in the "bork".

Mine comes up blank at first also, hitting refresh brings up the page.


 8:39 pm on Feb 16, 2003 (gmt 0)

www.microsoft.com has always rendered poorly for me using Mozilla. I just figured they didn't care if competing browsers did not work with their sites.

But deliberately sending bad code to competing browsers... I don't think MS learned much from their last major battle in the courts. Other than "don't get caught".

As for me, this only strengthens my resolve to avoid MS products whenever and wherever possible.

*proudly and successfully working without buying MS Office since 1997*


 1:47 am on Feb 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

If you're using a non-MS browser then you have already taken a step to recognising that MSN is not the only one in the game. So MSN is using non-standard html code - go find another site with similar content. You know it's there.

Most of you are SEO aware, getting the hits for various audiences - why not try and promote some non-MS browsers and sites to them. The more aware people are the more likely they're going to change - just plain advertising really!

This site can be viewed with Internet Explorer but it renders better in Opera... etc :)


 4:46 am on Feb 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

Can a resturant owner deny service to people having the wrong color of

Can a city make people in jeans take a seat in the back of the bus?

Well, restaurants could deny service to customers not wearing a tie, so why couldn't websites deny service to users not wearing their preferred brand of browser?

I personally don't see any need to visit the microsoft site, so don't really care what they do and although I find it ridiculous of them to block non IE browsers, I consider it possible that they have a right to block whatever browser they want..

(btw, microsoft.com comes up no problems in apple's browser, safari)


 4:53 am on Feb 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

All analogies have limits. But in my view, this is more like allowing any manner of attire into the restaurant -- but intentionally serving people who wear Armani a lower grade of food than those who wear Versace.


 8:37 am on Feb 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

quite satisfying to come in this morning and have this headline at the top of my MSN personalised news:

Opera makes MSN look like a load of muppets
The Swedish Chef to be precise



 11:05 am on Feb 17, 2003 (gmt 0)

"Maybe they don't need the hassle of tweaking..."

The issue is not that MSN would have had to tweak their code to fit Opera.

The issues is that MSN deliberately tweaked the code to MESS UP Opera. In other words, they went out of their way to disable a non-MS browser.

The whole issue has driven me to install Opera (the Borked version, of course).


 5:44 pm on Feb 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

I have not had a chance to come here very often recently and may be a bit late to this story.

Anyway, first of all the actions of Opera are funny and do make a point quite effectively (as well as acting as PR). As someone else pointed out using the latter of the restaurant analogies (i.e.: giving the lower grade of food to some customers without telling them), which (although IMO analogies usually miss the point) I think hit the nail on the head; M$ are not blocking other browsers, but, it appears, serving them an intentionally-broken page.

On many of their sites, M$ either blocks browsers not sending IE (or some other browser names like NN sometimes (to "prove" they are not furthering their monopoly, I suppose ;-) )) in their UA string with a message like "We do not support your current browser. Please download IE to view this site."(e.g.: [msn.com...] - see [msn.co.uk...] ) or a warning message appears saying something like "Your current browser will limit your ability to use this site - please download IE here, or, if you really have to view it with your current browser anyway, click here."(e.g.: [hotmail.com...] - see [lw12fd.law12.hotmail.msn.com...] ).

This is a common practice and AFAICC, though IANAL, is not illegal (except it could be in the case of M$ in the USA because M$ is considered an illegal monopoly, therefore they are not allowed to do anything which might unfairly disadvantage their competitors). However, what they are doing with msn.com is sneaky and underhand, and I think that is why Opera and Opera users have been complaining.

What Opera have done seems to be the best way to deal with this situation. Although this whole thing is a bit silly and probably quite unimportant (when looking at the web in general) (although there may be a principle here), M$ started it (and it just goes to show how pathetically out-of-touch (and even childish) they are - do they care about bad PR any more?).

I'm not really a great Opera user myself but kudos to them. I used to use Opera a lot and I use it for some things still but I prefer Mozilla and Phoenix now (post-Moz-1.0) (tabbed browsing &c. are better, now as standards-compliant) more cool features and extensions and, most importantly, they are open source and ad-free).

The actions of M$ seem somewhat dishonest (and definitely against netiquette). But are M$'s actions really going to effect many people? (Who uses MSN neway?) No, not really. Therefore, M$ are just being dishonest for the hell of it (and to make their PR even worse if that is possible). They are the ones who look stupid and it is not advantageous to them. That is why I consider it childish. Of course, Opera are being childish too but only as a parody of M$ (and maybe to make a serious point that any1 can play their games) and M$ started it. Also Opera are not being dishonest because they make it clear what they are doing.

As to whether webmasters should take any action (lke Opera has) against M$'s anti-competitiveness, I definitely do no think MSIE should be blocked or even given a different page without telling the user (especially as Opera purports to be MSIE). I would consider this unethival. It also goes down to M$'s level. I am also, in general opposed to UA string sniffing, because its opportunities for abuse far outweigh its usefulness. However, after thinking about this, I decided that putting up a notice on the site to users who send an MSIE UA string explaining that MSIE does not display HTML very well may be a help to the user (generally - not necessarily as a response to this).

If u really want to go over board with taking the Mickey out of M$ and also help ur users (even MSIE users) experience (as opposed to hindering it like M$) . Then you could make a special version of your site that works in MSIE as well as the standard version. Then if the UA string sent by the users UA when they access ur sites homepage includes "Internet Explorer" a page could be displayed (written in basic HTML (e.g.: HTML 2.0)) which would say something like this (very rough idea off the top of my head - also maybe a bit too taking-the-mick and exaggerated):

The user-agent (UA) string that has been sent by your computer indicates that you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer (commonly known as Microshaft Internet Exploiter or MSIE) to view this page. This browser cannot interpret HTML & XHTML (as made by the W3C), and is, therefore, not actually a web browser; however, you may still be able to view this site. Please follow these instructions:

  • If it is not the case that you are using MSIE, because you have adjusted your UA string to purport that you are using MSIE when you are not (or because you are using Opera which purports to be MSIE by default*), please click on the "View in HTML, XHTML & CSS" link below to view the site in standard HTML.

    (* Opera users: to adjust this behaviour, press F12 and select "Identify as Opera" from the pop-up menu.)

  • If you are using MSIE then please do one of the following:

  • Download a web browser [include a link to a page with links to download various browsers here if u like or a include a link to the dmoz/yahoo browsers category] so that you can view the webpages on this site properly (and see all the sites features and content).

  • Click on the "View in MSHTML, MSXHTML & MSCSS" link below to view this site in the special Microsoft format for which MSIE was designed to use. NB: This version of the site may be more out-of-date than the canonical (i.e.: official standard) version and some of the styling and features [etc.] from the canonical version of the pages may be missing due to the restrictive nature of Microsoft's format.

  • Click on the "View in HTML, XHTML & CSS" link below to attempt to view the canonical version of this site. This may cause problems with MSIE and/or the content of the site may be unreadable.

View in HTML, XHTML & CSS [or whatever u like - this links to standard site homepage]
View in MSHTML, MSXHTML & MSCSS [or whatever u like - this links to the homepage of the special version of ur site 4 MSIE]

Please note that I am not fond of the use (usually abuse) of UA strings by web authors. However, due to the fact that many people use MSIE and MSIE is not a standards-compliant browser (and therefore cannot view webpages), I felt the need to sniff the UA string of visitors to this site (only to check for MSIE users).

NB: Unlike Microsoft and other misusers of UA-string sniffing, this site does not block certain browsers according to their UA string (as has been done by Microsoft to force people to buy their OS and use their browser) or even automatically present the user with a different webpage based on their UA string (as has been done by Microsoft in order to make it look like competing browsers do not work [link to this story here if u like]). It merely tells users that they appear to be using a non-web-conforming browser and that this may be a problem. Not only this, but I have created a MSHTML version of the page specially for this non-compliant browser. Not only this, but I give these users the option to carry on viewing the page in HTML (as created by the W3C) if they wish (although this may cause problems if they are using the browser that their UA string purports that they are using).

Any1 is free to use the above or something similar if they think this is a good idea. I really hope sum1 does something like this on a reasonably popular site.

As far as I can see it may be slightly annoying for the user but one would be explaining the issue to them and it certainly would not be underhand UA-string sniffing(without an explanation as M$ do). As far as I can see my idea would not be breaking netiquette and broadly speaking (although it does take the mick) what it says is true.

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