Google Continues Blocking Opera For No Apparent Reason
By on September 9th, 2010

Google is a company that takes pride in its “Do no Evil” mantra and champions “openness”. Whether it is the Android operating system or the Chrome web browser, “open” is one word you have probably heard Google promoting. However, its actions suggest otherwise.

Recently, Google unveiled Instant Search, a potentially revolutionary feature that displays results as you type. This killer feature is supposed to work in all modern browsers. But, guess what? It doesn’t work in Opera, and it’s not quite Opera Software’s fault.

Google appears to be using browser sniffing (i.e. scripts that detect the browser being used to render the webpage) to block Opera users. Opera users accessing google.com/instant are greeted with the following message:

Google Instant is not available for your web browser.
Please upgrade to the latest version of a modern browser to use Google Instant.

Google-Instant-Opera-Blocked

Curiously enough, clicking on the “modern browser” hyperlink will take you to a webpage that (among others) recommends Opera. Of course, this isn’t exactly a new phenomenon to Opera users. Way back in 2004, Opera Software had filed a class-action lawsuit against Microsoft for providing Opera users an inferior MSN user experience. Google also has a history of purposefully and unnecessarily blocking Opera. One of the most recent examples is Google’s fancy doodles.

Fortunately, there is a way out for Opera users. The solution is to simply change Opera’s user agent to mimic Firefox. Here’s a quick guide to access Google Instant Search in Opera:

  • Open www.google.com in Opera.
  • Right click on an empty spot in the page and select “Edit Site Preferences…” from the context menu.
  • Navigate to the “Network” tab and change the “Browser Identification” option to “Identify as Firefox”. Now you will be able to enable Google Instant Search.


via @brucel

Unfairly blocking competitors is anything but fair and open. It’s time that Google put its money where its mouth is. Even more importantly, it’s time that the talented engineers and coders at Google realized that browser sniffing is a really really bad idea.

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Author: Pallab De Google Profile for Pallab De
Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

Pallab De has written and can be contacted at pallab@techie-buzz.com.
  • http://www.carbatterystarter.com car battery

    This sort of practice is really unprofessional and could end up biting Google if there is malicious intent on their part. Going by the video, it’s pretty obvious Opera can handle the Livesearch.

  • Alex

    This makes me sad… They’re supposed to be open and non-evil…

    I’ve grown very fond of Google but I never thought they’d pull such a stunt. Browser sniffing is a sucky MS tactic. They need to encourage people to use their browser by making it good, not by blocking the competition.

    I switch between FF, Chrome and opera for different tasks.

    Thanks for the solution. It works great.

  • Rob

    While it’s a shame they didn’t support opera out of the box, this is hardly the intentional and malicious act you’re making it out to be.

    “Google appears to be using browser sniffing (i.e. scripts that detect the browser being used to render the webpage) to block Opera users.”

    Is pretty inaccurate and shows the lack of knowledge present in this article. All modern browsers submit something called a user agent string when they request a webpage. This allows websites to figure out the capabilities of the browser displaying the webpage – specifically to AVOID doing something like having them run sneaky scripts to figure it out.

    Because there are so many different browsers out there it is often necessary to test each browser one at a time (well, each rendering engine). Really, all I think that’s happened is that they’ve tested the market leaders first and are moving on to opera next.

    • http://www.pallab.net Pallab De

      Oh trust me, I know what user agent is. However, can you tell me how you can make your webapp detect the user agent? Yeah, by writing a couple of lines of code. And, any code that performs actions based on the user agent is performing browser sniffing.

      Also, there are dozens of browsers but only a handful of rendering engines – Trident, Gecko, WebKit and Presto. So, its not that hard to make sure that a app runs properly on all browsers.

      Furthermore, which one of the following would you prefer?
      A. if (UA==IE)
      //deliver ie optimised code
      else if (UA==Firefox)
      //deliver fx optimised code
      else if(UA==Webkit)
      //deliver webkit optimised code

      B.
      if (UA==IE)
      //deliver ie optimised code
      else if (UA==Firefox)
      //deliver fx optimised code
      else if(UA==Webkit)
      //deliver webkit optimised code
      else
      //deliver standards compliant code without browser specific optimisation.

      B. definitely sounds better. Unfortunately that’s not quite what Google is doing.

      Finally, as I pointed out, a better alternative to browser sniffing is capability detection.

    • KT

      @Rob:
      Apparently, you’re either related to @RT or you’re astro-turfing for Google PR.

      And as Pallab noted, user-agents DO NOT reflect the browser’s features or capabilities, only the release number, rendering engine type/version and platform.

      Again, Google ITSELF tells its developers to specifically NOT browser-sniff, but use feature-detection. (And how long does it take to comment-out or delete 2 lines of code?)
      http://www.google.com/search?client=opera&rls=en&q=hypocritical&sourceid=opera&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

  • http://www.untwistedvortex.com/ RT Cunningham

    It may not be as nefarious as it appears. Banks are notorious for doing the same thing when it comes to accepting anything other than IE (not all banks, of course). Browser sniffing is designed to make sure that whatever new technology brought onto the web can be handled by specific browsers. Since Google Instant is brand new, it may just be a coding error. Let’s wait a month and see what happens, long enough for all the bugs to be worked out.

    • http://www.pallab.net Pallab De

      As I mentioned it’s not just Google Instant. Google did it with the the latest animated doodles, and is still doing it with Google Images.

    • KT

      @RT:
      If you don’t know what you’re talking about, it makes to sense to not PRETEND to speak with authority. Pallab is correct in alluding to browser-sniffing being a lazy, ignorant web design practice.

      As recommended by Google itself, browser-sniffing is the wrong approach…web designers should use “feature-detection” or “capability-detection.”

      Educate yourself.
      http://dev.opera.com/articles/view/using-capability-detection/

  • FoilHatWearer

    I think I know what the reason is: Opera in conjunction with AdBlock very successfully blocks ads. When I gave up on workarounds and accessed Gmail, Google+, and YouTube (which uses Google+ to login) using Internet Explorer. I couldn’t believe all the ads, it was awful. You have to watch a 30-second commercial to watch EACH vid in YouTube.

    I have no doubt that blocking Opera is a tactic to make you use a different browser and get slammed with ads. Screw Gmail, I’m in the market for a different e-mail account. I don’t need this crap.

 
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