What's opera, Doc?


— 12:00 AM on February 7, 2003

Slashdot pointed me to what appears to be the latest example of Microsoft's underhanded dealings. In a scenario that sounds a lot like the DR-DOS/Windows 3.1 scandal, it seems that MSN.com is selectively sabotaging outgoing web pages depending on whether the requesting program is the Opera web browser.

Opera's own web site has a detailed analysis of the problem, and their evidence is fairly damning. The content style sheet file that MSN.com returns to the Opera browser includes a section that basically makes the rendered page look wrong. Since IE and Netscape aren't affected, this would likely cause many users to think that Opera was broken.

I know what you're thinking: "That's ridiculous, it's probably just a bug on MSN.com's part, but you can't assume it's intentional." A good point, but the Opera team already thought of that. In a move reminiscent of the ATI/QUACK3.EXE affair, they changed the User Agent string slightly, replacing the word Opera with Oprah. Once the change was made, MSN.com stopped sending the broken content style sheet and instead sent the same CSS file it sends to IE 6 users.

The more things change....

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