Because some internet websites unfairly block browsers from accessing their services, starting with Vivaldi 2.10, released today, the Vivaldi browser plans to disguise itself as Chrome to allow users to access websites that unfairly block them.
Vivaldi will do this by modifying its default user-agent (UA) string to the UA string used by Chrome.
A UA string is a piece of text that browsers send to websites when they initiate a connection. The UA String contains data about the browser type, rendering engine, and operating system.
For example, a UA string for Firefox on Windows looks like this:
Mozilla/5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64; rv:71.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/71.0
UA strings have been in use since the 90s. For decades, websites have used UA agent strings to fine-tune performance and features or block outdated browsers.
However, many website owners these days use UA strings to block users from accessing their sites. Some do it because they’re not willing to deal with browser-specific bugs, some do it because of pettiness, while big tech companies like Google and Microsoft have done it (and continue to do it) to sabotage competitors on the browser market.
Vivaldi claims foul play
In the case of Vivaldi, these bans are unfair and prevent Vivaldi users from accessing legitimate sites for no good reason at all.
The browser is not an outdated piece of junk that website owners need to block from their sites. Vivaldi is a modern browser built on Chromium, which is the same code that runs underneath Chrome. It is also the most customizable browser today and is kept up to date with monthly updates.
However, the Vivaldi team says it’s still dealing with unfair blocks.
“Vivaldi is blocked for many reasons, and often by competitors, rivals and tech companies in a position of power,” the Vivaldi team said today.
Furthermore, when a website blocks Vivaldi, they also show messages telling users to upgrade their browsers. These messages are both damaging to Vivaldi’s reputation, and incorrect since Vivaldi would be able to load the website if the website would allow it.
The Vivaldi team has recorded a video showing how websites that blocked their browser loaded perfectly once they changed the UA string to Chrome, showing that the ban was unwarranted.
However, the Vivaldi team can’t change the minds of some website owners. For example, Google has been known to historically block most competing browsers from its services, or even sabotage the layouts or performance of their own websites when loaded in other browsers, as a way to funnel new users towards Chrome.
Instead, the Vivaldi team says that changing its UA string to Chrome is the best way to go about it at the moment.
“The primary reason to show Vivaldi in the user agent is a level of pride,” said Vivaldi CEO Jon von Tetzchner.
“That pride, however, is hurting us, as our competitors and others are using this to block us from their services. That is why with today’s update, we’ve drawn a line in the sand so that you can browse more websites without a glitch.”
Sadly, needing to hide themselves as Chrome in order to gain access to various websites isn’t a desperation move specific to Vivaldi alone. Brave, another Chromium-based browser, also does it.
Even Microsoft’s newer Chromium-based Edge version does it for some sites, albeit not all and not all the time.
“Blocking Chromium-based browsers has no technical merit in 2020, nor has it ever had,” the Vivaldi team said.