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.
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.
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.