Will the Chrome, Edge, and Firefox v100 workarounds suffice if websites aren’t working?

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Three of the world’s most popular web browsers – Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge and Mozilla Firefox – are about to reach version 100. If reaching the century should be a celebratory moment, there are concerns about how some Web sites will respond to triple-digital version numbers they deem not to be able to read. Version 100 updates for Chrome and Edge are expected in March, while Firefox could roll out theirs in early May.

Potential problems stem from the fact that some websites cannot read three-digit user agent strings. This is the identification that a web browser sends to the website being accessed, which in turn enables the compatible version of the website to be served for the browser being used. Many websites on the Internet are configured to read only two-digit strings, up to 99. If a web browser serves “100” as the version of such a website, it may be unable to display some of the content. , or be entirely inaccessible.

“Without a single specification to follow, different browsers have different formats for the user agent string and site-specific user agent parsing. It’s possible that some parsing libraries have assumptions or hard-coded bugs that don’t take major three-digit version numbers into account,” says Mozilla’s web development team. However, they point out that the logic for parsing website libraries has improved as browsers have moved from single-digit to double-digit versions.

What is the analysis of the libraries in question? The parsing process is done to parse a string of symbols in a computer language or data structures. This is necessary because it allows the data being served to be understood by the software trying to access it. These libraries access the identification of the web browser and then serve content optimized for those browsers and versions.

About 12 years ago, web browsers largely evolved from single-digit versions to double-digit versions (i.e. from version 9 to version 10, for example). There is a common belief that moving from two to three version numbers causes fewer problems.

A useful tracker on GitHub, a software hosting platform, is one to watch in case you are one of those updating software on day 1. Some of the popular websites flagged for incompatibilities with version 100 include Yahoo, HBO Go and Standard Chartered. Reported incompatibilities with Netflix and Slack, for example, are now reported and fixed.

Google developers have been testing websites for possible issues since November, when Chrome 96 and later versions of the browser included a feature flag option that identified itself as version 100 for websites. In the case of the Chrome web browser in particular, the cutoff is version 40. If a website reads version 100 like version 10, it will lead to partially or completely inaccessible websites.

At the same time, developers will likely incorporate an option that will allow web browsers to identify as version 99, until a fix is ​​in place on incompatible websites.

“If you type ‘about:compat’ in the Firefox URL bar, you can see what is currently fixed. If a site breaks major version 100 on a specific domain, it is possible to fix it by sending the version 99 instead,” says Mozilla. Nightly builds of Firefox (those are the test builds) can be configured to force report version 100.

Similar code has already been integrated into test versions of Chromium, benefiting Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge, which use the same foundations. “This is a fallback plan in the event of significant compatibility issues with a three-digit major release,” reads the description for the code.

Does this remind you of the Y2K bug of many years ago, when it was feared that computers wouldn’t be able to tell the year 2000 from the 1900s, leading to mass panic?

The fix for forcing browsers to release version 99 is temporary at best, but could give websites some time to introduce fixes. All told, there may be issues on some websites you access regularly in the first few days after version 100 updates for Chrome, Edge, and Firefox.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Vishal Mathur is technology editor for Hindustan Times. When he doesn’t understand technology, he often searches for an elusive analog space in a digital world.
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