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Medium.com doesn’t support my browser, and here’s why…


You probably don’t remember a web browser called Mosaic. It looked something like this:

This browser identifies itself as NSCA_Mosaic

Mosaic was one of the first graphical browsers for a non-Unix environment. The original browser, WorldWideWeb later renamed Nexus, and the ViolaWWW browsers were already around, but didn’t run on Windows and Mac OS.

Back in 1994, Jim Clark and Mark Andreessen started Mosaic Communications Corporation, hired many of the developers of Mosaic, and later that year released Mosaic Netscape 0.9, before renaming their company to Netscape Communications Corporation and their product to Netscape.

You may remember Netscape, it looked something like this:

Codename for Netscape: Mozilla, which stuck and has been in user agent strings ever since.

Eventually, Microsoft caught onto the web, released Internet Explorer 1.0 for Windows, which looked a bit like this:

Also identifies as Mozilla, but isn’t

There was a thing called the browser wars, which split the web into two chunks: web pages designed for Internet Explorer and those that weren’t. The ones which weren’t often kinda worked in IE anyway, but the ones designed just for IE didn’t work at all well in Netscape and other browsers.

This seemed bad at the time, especially because Microsoft didn’t make a browser for anything but Windows (and later the Mac) and because Internet Explorer was proprietary, the web felt kinda weird for people using free software operating systems.

So Netscape released the source code to their browser as free software. A new project was born: Mozilla.

Mozilla went through a long period of development, but with regular releases. I ran “Mozilla” (officially Mozilla Suite and later SeaMonkey) from mid-2000 right through until Firefox 1.0 came out in 2004.

The great thing about Firefox was that finally, we had a free software browser and it also happened to be one of the best browsers out there. People celebrated by donating money to the newly formed Mozilla Foundation to put a two page ad in the New York Times:

On a recent trip to San Francisco I got to see some of these names on the sign outside the Mozilla offices. I even spotted a few people I know.

For a few years, things were pretty great. And then in 2006, a whole bunch of stuff happened which basically came down to Mozilla and Debian arguing over a trademark, and Debian rebranding the browser and email client as Iceweasel and Icedove respectively.

Which is why Medium doesn’t support my browser.

Medium hearkens back to the “good old days” of the web, when you have to have the right browser installed to view a website.

My browser identifies as:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:35.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/35.0 Iceweasel/35.0

Yep. It identifies AS Firefox as well as Iceweasel.

And this is what I see if I use the User Agent Switcher to claim to be Mozilla Firefox™ (akaMozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux x86_64; rv:35.0) Gecko/20100101 Firefox/35.0)

Yes you do. I just wrote my entire post in it, and I have to say, your editing interface is pretty nice. Now just stop using 1990s-techniques to figure out if I have the right browser or not and just show me the page I requested without trying to second guess me.


By Matt Lee

Artist, writer, director and recovering free software user.

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