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User Agent Spoofing vs User Agent Sniffing

User agent spoofing is not same as user agent sniffing. Indeed, the word “spoof” and “sniff” already tell the difference.

According to Google define: short code, “spoof” means “to deceive; to falsify”. As for “sniff”, it means “to be dismissive or contemptuous of something”.

User agent sniffing refers to practice of web sites offering different view of content (the presentation, layout, or reduced information) to web clients (e.g. web browser), according to the web client ID (a.k.a. user agent string).

For example, Nokia Ovi Store only allows Symbian-based web browser to access, browse and download S60 applications, games, ringtone, wallpaper, etc.

User agent spoofing is a counter practice where the web browser temporarily abandon its real ID and mask itself with a user agent string flavoured by the user agent sniffing code, in a hope of tricking the detection code to believe it is the “genuine” web browser.

As there are still plenty of web sites employ user agent string detection code, most of the branded web browsers (Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari, and Opera) allow end users to perform user agent spoofing, in order to gain the competitive market share.

Google Chrome, for example, didn’t provide an easy option to do user agent spoofing in its initial releases. However, Chrome developers have no choice but to include new program option switch to change its default user agent string, when the problem of accessing Hotmail reported (which was apparently caused by user agent sniffing in Hotmail system).

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