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When I started UA Profiler, I assumed I would be able to find a library to accurately parse the HTTP User-Agent string into its components. I need this in order to categorize the test results. Was the test done with Safari or iPhone? Internet Explorer or Maxthon? NetNewsWire or OmniWeb? My search produced some candidates, but none of them had the level of accuracy I wanted, unable to properly classify edge case browsers, mobile devices, and new browsers (like Chrome and Android).
So, I rolled my own.
I find that it’s very accurate - more accurate than anything else I could find. Another good site out there is SNIP, but even they misclassify some well known browsers such as iPhone, Shiretoko, and Lunascape. When I do my daily checks I find that every 200-400 new user agents requires me to tweak my code. And I’ve written some good admin tools to do this check - it only takes 5 minutes to complete. And the code tweaks, when necessary, take less than 15 minutes.
It’s great that this helps UA Profiler, but I’d really like to share this with the web community. The first step was adding a new Parse User-Agent page to UA profiler. You can paste any User-Agent string and see how my code classifies it. I also show the results from SNIP for comparison. The next steps, if there’s interest and I can find the time, would be to make this available as a web service and make the code available, too. What do people think?
* Do other people share this need for better User Agent parsing?
* Do you know of something good that’s out there that I missed?
* Do you see gaps or mistakes in UA Profiler’s parsing?
We don't normally allow links to blog posts (Steve's) or self-promotion on WebmasterWorld but I feel this is worth an exception.
For those that may not know this, our member GaryK maintains an excellent list of user agent data called the Browser Capabilities Project [browsers.garykeith.com] which contains a wealth of useful information.
I know form personal experience keeping track of the different browsers, and their abilities or lack there of is hard considering the lack of accurate documentation on them. Even harder is trying to come up with some standards how to name them, consistently over time and versions. Also working with others who do the same thing, takes time and a decent level of communication.
All I am going to say is that lets check in a year or so, and see if he is still doing this project and how much it is grown or used outside his own personal use.