Hawk's Nest

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Newbie to Firefox Discovers Discrimination

With the release of Firefox 1.0, I converted. I never expected to abandon my marriage to Internet Explorer for another browser but I couldn't resist. The flexibility and power of Firefox is quite daunting. (IE has become stale and needs a real shot in the arm)

Now imagine my surprise at finding I'm now being discriminated against online just for browsing with Firefox. Discrimination is a serious problem in the physical world but it never occurred to me it would show up in my own everyday use of the Internet. But there it is. Sites as major as Movielink or as specialized as the Carolina IT Professionals Group won't let me view there content without using IE! And these are not alone. To me, this is unacceptable.

It's one thing to code a page so it's optimized for a certain browser. I understand the need to put your efforts where the biggest percentage of viewers may be coming from (although Firefox is gaining ground). I also understand wanting to reduce the number of support requests for people who can't view the content (but just include a best viewed in IE clause on each page). And if you use ActiveX on your site, those functions won't work in Firefox (Firefox avoids this security hazard).

But it's pretty eriudite to not even allow a person browsing the web to view your content. It communicates a message out of step with a modern view of the world. It says the site knows better than all the possible browsing technology available as to whether their site can be viewed. A friend of mine even contacted an "IE only" site to request access and was told "Thanks, but no thanks" in so many words.

Thankfully, we can do something about it. If you get the User Agent Switcher extension for Firefox, you can appear as IE to these web servers and stop the discrimination. It's no guarantee the site will work, but at least it can be accessed.

Is this enough? I don't think so. Instead, I urge you to let your opininon be known to sites which discriminate and ask for code to be removed which blocks alternative browsers like Firefox. Mozilla.org has a great site about this and would like to hear from you about those sites.

We can stop this discrimination now. Let the web remain free for all to access, no matter their choice of browser.


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