Scot Finnie Investigates MSN’s Browser Blocking
Scot Finnie issued a special newsletter this morning on the Opera vs. MSN issue as a follow-up to his previous issue yesterday. In yesterday’s issue Scot stated that he felt Microsoft didn’t act maliciously or intentionally to block other browsers, that it was an innocent mistake probably by the developers of the MSN.com site and Carpoint.com. After reading this, though, Opera’s CEO, Jon S. von Tetzchner, wrote to Scot:
"The fact is that Microsoft blocked Opera actively. They searched for the Opera string and any browser having Opera in its identification string was not allowed access. After tremendous pressure from our users and the press, they caved in and let us in. However, there are still sections of MSN that are closed to Opera users, if they decide to let Opera identify itself as Opera. [This refers to an option in Opera’s File > Preferences > Connections section. Opera can be set to tell a Web site that it is a different browser, such as Internet Explorer 5.0. ] A good chunk of our users do that—choose to have Opera identify itself as Opera. And when they do that, they do not get access to, for example, Carpoint.
"Instead they get this message:Microsoft Carpoint that contains the latest new- and used-car features cannot be viewed using this browser. If you would like to see what you are missing ... you can upgrade your browser to the latest version of Netscape, or click the icon below to download the latest version of Internet Explorer for free!
"Saying that Opera was treated as 'unknown' is definitely not the truth. They were capable of closing the door when Opera was anywhere in the string. Why are they still closing the door on Opera, when they have shown they are quite capable of recognizing Opera and shutting it out?
"Why on earth does Microsoft find it necessary to have these kind of messages at all? I hope we will see a change where action matches the words and that Microsoft starts to actively supports standards and works on getting their pages to work with other browsers instead of closing the door."
What bothers me also is that regardless of intent, Microsoft claims to support W3C and web standards but yet they intentionally blocked Opera and other browsers from accessing their MSN.com site and are still blocking these users from Carpoint.com. W3C and the Web Standards Project are strong advocates for universal accessibility to everyone, not excluding anyone.
What is sad indeed is that because of Microsoft’s reputation for nefarious business practices, it is pretty tough to know what was actually an innocent mistake these days.
Scot feels that this was probably an innocent mistake by the site developers rather than a marketing ploy by Microsoft but also comments that there’s no excuse for this:
That said, I’m not letting Microsoft off the hook. Because it, like every other content maker on the Internet, has a responsibility to ensure common access to its content. I think the company that owns the largest Web browser marketshare is, perhaps, even more responsible on this point than other companies. Because to do otherwise is tasteless—not to mention really bad PR.
Since Scot feels so strongly about this issue, he invites everyone to send him an email when you’re blocked from a page, whether Microsoft or any other major site, with a specific URL and your browser version.
I don’t especially like the idea of pointing the finger at the developers instead, as Scot states may be the cause of this blunder. Microsoft may or may not have a Style Guide with an accessibility policy in place that the designers and developers are to follow. If they don’t, or if accessibility issues aren’t included or clearly stated, then this does need to be addressed. If, on the other hand, they were required to set up the pages to block Opera and other browsers, that’s another issue, too. So will we ever know the truth?