B�rk! B�rk! Swedish Chef Sings Opera to Microsoft

Norwegian browser maker Opera Software
Friday enlisted the aid of the Muppet Show’s Swedish Chef to cook up a little payback
against Microsoft for alleged
sleights against Opera users.

Opera, which two weeks ago said Microsoft was feeding Opera users a faulty
style sheet when they visited the MSN Web
site, has created a special version of its Opera 7 for Windows browser, the
Bork edition,
which is nearly identical to the normal version of Opera except when the
user visits the MSN site. The Bork edition transforms the MSN site into the
language of the Swedish Chef.

“Hergee berger snooger bork,” said Mary Lambert, product line manager
desktop, for Opera Software. “This is a joke. However, we are trying to
make an important point. The MSN site is sending Opera users what appear to
be intentionally distorted pages. The Bork edition illustrates how browsers
could also distort content, as the Bork edition does. The real point here
is that the success of the Web depends on software and Web site developers
behaving well and rising above corporate rivalry.”

Opera has documented
the problem which was causing MSN to appear distorted on Opera browsers,
pinpointing a faulty style sheet sent out by MSN as the culprit. Opera
showed that MSN was sending different style sheets to Microsoft Internet
Explorer and Opera browsers, despite the fact that the style sheet sent to
IE would have allowed MSN to render normally if sent to an Opera browser.

A screenshot supplied by Opera shows how the faulty style sheet
distorted the pages in Opera, causing users to believe that something was
wrong with their Opera browsers.

“When trying to access MSN.com using the Opera 7 browser, there are two
visible problems,” Opera Chief Technology Officer Hakon Wium Lie wrote in
the documentation. “First, for the user it looks like Opera 7 has a serious
flaw so that many lines are partially hidden. Second, the page shows less
content than users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer see.”

In an attempt to prove that MSN was specially targeting Opera, Lie changed
the User-Agent string — which tells Web pages what type of browser is
requesting information — of an Opera browser to read “Oprah,” a
non-existent browser. The “Oprah” browser returned the same style sheet as
IE 6.0 received and rendered the page correctly, not terribly surprising as
most sites default to IE if they can’t identify a browser. Lie also changed
the User-Agent string of an IE browser to read Opera, and that browser
fetched a faulty style sheet which rendered the page incorrectly.

While Microsoft denied that it was deliberately trying to disrupt the Web
browsing experience of Opera users, the problem was fixed for users of
Opera 7 days after Opera posted its documentation on the Web. However, the
company said earlier versions of Opera still bring up broken pages on MSN.

“We are working hard to make sure the Opera browser works well on all Web
pages, even those that do not follow the Web’s standards to the letter, Lie
said. “But it becomes impossible when we are targeted and fed distorted
pages that don’t work in any browser. It’s like putting a moose in the
blender — a recipe for disaster! Microsoft should clean up their act on
MSN and their other Web sites.”

Microsoft has used MSN, one of the most visited sites on the Web, to target
third-party browsers in the past. In October 2001, the company locked-out a
number of third-party browsers, including Opera, preventing them from
reaching the site at all.

Thor Olavsrud is a proud Norwegian.

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