Chrome wants to kill browser user agent strings, cites compatibility and privacy concerns

The consumer agent string is the a part of the browser that identifies itself to web sites. It tells websites the browser and browser model quantity you might be utilizing, in addition to restricted details about your system. Nonetheless, it has turn out to be an ever-growing downside for each customers and builders over the previous decade, so Google desires to change to one thing else.

When you’re not acquainted with internet improvement, browsers have constantly up to date their consumer agent strings to turn out to be longer, to keep up compatibility with web sites and reduce end-user influence. For instance, when Microsoft launched Web Explorer within the early 90’s, it added “Netscape” to its consumer agent string to make websites suppose it was the extra superior Netscape Navigator browser.

This back-and-forth has continued to this very day, with Chrome’s consumer agent string now containing references to “Mozilla” (Netscape’s codename), “AppleWebKit” (as a result of Chrome relies on Safari), “Safari,” “KHTML” (the engine Safari was based mostly on), and “Gecko” (Firefox’s rendering engine):

Mozilla/5.0 (Home windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit/537.36 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/79.0.3945.117 Safari/537.36

Person brokers have turn out to be much more difficult within the trendy period of Chromium-based browsers. The brand new Microsoft Edge adjustments its consumer agent string for every web site to keep away from being detected because the previous Edge, whereas Vivaldi lately introduced it’ll now not embrace its personal branding within the consumer agent to repair websites that block non-Chrome browsers. Person agent strings are additionally generally used to trace individuals as they transfer throughout web sites, in the identical style as third-party cookies.

Google’s new proposal is comprised of two elements. First, it desires to ‘freeze’ the consumer agent string, that means the contents will now not keep up-to-date (as eradicating it fully would trigger numerous web sites to stop working). Chrome 83, at present slated for launch in June, will freeze the browser and OS variations within the string. With Chrome 85, the plan is to make all desktop browsers use an identical string, whereas doing the identical for cell.

The second element is a alternative API, at present named ‘Person-Agent Shopper Hints.’ It will permit websites to detect a lot of the identical data that the consumer agent string supplies, however in a extra standardized and privacy-protecting method. The precise limitations for accessing this data will probably be as much as every browser ⁠— for instance, a browser may block entry to 32-bit/64-bit data till you select to obtain an executable file.

The precise particulars of this can doubtless change over the following few months, however with Safari and Firefox already , this could give nefarious web sites one much less avenue for monitoring you.

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