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01 April 2011, 12:31

Chrome and Chromium to change their UA calling cards

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Chromium logo Google is changing the User Agent (UA) string sent by the Chrome and Chromium Browsers to web servers when they connect in order better to reflect information about the browser and system. Web sites that parse this information may need to check that they'll understand the new variants. In a blog posting, Google described the four changes which it is introducing into how Chrome 11's UA string will be formed.

Firstly, it will be dropping the token which advertises SSL encryption strength. The token dates back to when US export laws controlled what SSL key length was allowed but now "every browser ships with 128-bit SSL support everywhere", and advertising that information is no longer necessary. On Windows platforms, a repetition of the word "Windows" in the UA string is removed. Also on Windows, where a 32-bit version of Chrome is running on a 64-bit system, the string "WOW64" is being added; identifiers for " Win64; x64" and "Win64;IA64" have been added to the source but Google says it has no plans to ship builds for these architectures.

Finally, Google has dropped the locale strings, such as "en-US" (English United States); Google suggests that web authors wanting to identify a browser's locale should use HTTP's Accept-Language header which can return multiple locales. It also points out that Chrome's implementation had a bug which meant that it always returned "en-US" wherever the users are.

Similar changes were made in Firefox 4 last year and with Firefox 4's recent release, the Chrome developers wanted to minimise disruption. The changes have been made in Chrome and Chromium's Dev, and Canary builds, and will be percolating up to release versions over the coming weeks.

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