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Opera sabatoged by MSN (again)

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<a href="http://deb.opera.com/howcome/2003/2/msn/">Why doesn't MSN work with Opera?</a> is a systematic investigation of the behavior of the MSN website when approached by different web clients. Recently, <a href="http://www.opera.com/">Opera Software</a> discovered that on the home page for the MSN web-site, <iq>...it looks like Opera7 has a serious flaw so that many lines are partially hidden [and] the page shows less content than users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (MSIE) see.</iq> <a href="{data}/news/old_attachments/images/msn_in_opera7.png"><img src="{data}/news/old_attachments/images/msn_in_opera7_tn.png" alt="MSN in Opera 7" class="frame" align="left"></a>They concluded that the MSN web-site is sending back a different style sheet to only Opera browsers. However, when the page (and stylesheets) returned to IE was loaded in Opera 6.x or 7.x, it displayed exactly the same as in IE. There are two possible conclusions here: either the Opera-specific coding is deliberate, but is based on the untested notion that the site has to tailor its content to fit browsers <i>or</i> it's a deliberate hack to make the Opera browser look like it can't handle even simple pages. Think of the purveyor of the web-site and decide for yourself. (Note: the image to the left is of the faulty stylesheet displayed in IE, proving that it's malformed code and not the Opera renderer's error). The first conclusion is less believable because: <ol> It costs more to make your web-site coded specifically to different browsers. You don't do it unless you have to. The "typo" in the stylesheet is hardly something that could happen by accident; -30px margin is not a common setting. This is the home page for the site - did no one even do a sanity check on all browsers? It's Microsoft; they understand quite well how to sabotage reputations. </ol> For those that think this is no big deal: just remember that a year from now when you hear that Opera isn't doing so well anymore and that Microsoft has miraculously cornered the phone browser market. Remember that when you read articles telling you that "well, Opera just doesn't render the sites correctly...that guy showed us the way it screws up sites...I think even really big, popular sites like MSN don't even work. You'd think they could get THAT to work, at least." <box align="right" width="25%" class="excerpt">It's the seed you plant in people's heads that grows into a large Opera-mistrusting tree.</box> Then wonder again why Microsoft would do this. It's not the blocking of the site itself; It's the mindshare you gain. It's the seed you plant in people's heads that grows into a large Opera-mistrusting tree. Go to the MSN site with the user agent set to Opera. It's complete crap. Don't tell me that Microsoft's not afraid of Opera...not on the desktop, no...but Opera's kicking it's ass in the phone business. There is a good ending here: <bq>After this page had been referenced by Cnet, The Register and Slashdot, MSN changed their setup so that Opera7 no longer receives the distorted style sheet. Opera6, however, still does.</bq> However, how many people know that? How many people are going to remember that it wasn't Opera's fault? The damage is done in increments to Opera's reputation and Microsoft has the power to make it happen because they've got a monopoly on the desktop and channel all their sheep users through their web site (it's the number 1 portal in the world). As another followup, Opera has struck back. <a href="http://slashdot.org/">Slashdot</a> reported that <a href="http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=03/02/14/1256231&mode=thread&tid=133&threshold=3">Opera Releases "Bork" Edition</a>, a special version of their browser that runs all requests to MSN through a filter to make it look like it was written by the Swedish chef from The Muppet Show. It's an eloquent, powerful statement about the power of web standards and the chaos that can ensue when companies hold rivalty in higher importance than their customers: <bq>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.</bq> Mr. Håkon Wium Lie (CTO - Opera Software AS) said that <iq>they repeatedly have complained to MS about this and other problems over a long time, but nothing happened</iq>. The problem was heavily reported to Opera and MSN for two weeks before Opera decided to take the error a little more public. At this point, they have every right to believe it's intentional. As one poster on Slashdot said: <iq>if one of my clients' web page was in worldwide news because of a problem that involves fixing one line of CSS, I'd be sure to fix it the very next day</iq>. Of course you would. But then you don't have a monopoly on people's systems, browsers and homepages, do you? Microsoft didn't fix the page until a <i>huge</i> shitstorm was raised; until the harm outweighed the benefits. Ask yourself what the benefits are (and who benefits) if MSN is illegible in Opera browsers and you can decide for yourself whether it was just a 'mistake'.