Despite the obvious rumor, browser user agents are actually pretty easy to understand. Almost every time you visit a high traffic website, its server will take into account your current user agent, which helps identify your operating system and browser to better serve you content.
Even popular browsers like Chrome, Firefox, and Safari can often display web content in an inconsistent manner when compared to each other. But there are hundreds of user agents, from browsers you’ve probably never heard of, to email and RSS readers.
In this article, we will discuss the technical side of user agents and how you can take advantage of software and browser plugins to control the display of content on the Internet.
What does a switcher user-agent browser do?
The user agent switcher does exactly what it looks like – it changes your browser’s user agent. A user agent is a string of text that your browser sends to the web server that it communicates with and that describes the user’s operating system, browser, processing mechanism, and other important details.
For example, this is the user agent for the latest version of Google Chrome on Windows 10:
Mozilla / 5.0 (Windows NT 10.0; Win64; x64) AppleWebKit / 537.36 (KHTML like Gecko) Chrome / 77.0.3865.90 Safari /537.36 pre >
This information is sent to web servers through HTTP headers and can be used to change how content is displayed. Browsers often display text, images, and other content in different ways, so it is important for the content to display correctly that the web server understands exactly what you are viewing.
The browser user-agent switch allows you to modify this string sent through the HTTP headers so that the web server thinks you are viewing the pages in a different browser than it actually is.
Why do you want to use the switcher user-agent browser?
There are several reasons why someone might want to trick a website into thinking it is running in a different browser.
One of the most common reasons is web development. While I’m firmly convinced that the best way here is to simply install additional browsers to get the most out of it, switching the user agent in a browser will allow you to quickly and easily see how your work looks in other browsers.
Another case where switching between user and agent in a browser can be useful is when you are trying to view how a website looks on a mobile device. You may have a slow or limited connection, or the website may have other features or functionality available for mobile browsers. Changing the user agent allows you to do this without the inconvenience of using your phone.
Changing the user agent can also help you bypass browser restrictions. While this is not as common as it was ten years ago, it is sometimes possible to find websites that claim incompatibility with a particular browser build and completely deny access to anyone using it. You can get around this by simply changing the user agent.
Last but not least, think about the privacy of your viewing. While the user agent does not identify you as accurately as the IP address, you still opt out of the way you browse. However, you should be advised that there are ways that websites can see outside of the user agent string and identify your browser. In the case of security, this is unsafe.
How do you obtain the Browser User-Agent Switch?
Most of the popular browsers nowadays include a developer console, which allows you to change all sorts of things like view resolution and user agent. The problem is that if you intend to change your user agent frequently, going through the steps required to do so through the developer console can be tedious.
For this reason, we recommend installing a browser extension or add-on that simplifies the process of changing your browser user agent. Chrome and Firefox offer several options for this purpose, but we’ve picked two of the best.
Chrome: User Agent Switcher for Chrome
This Chrome extension has nearly two million users and was developed by Google, so its browser compatibility should be as good as you can ever find.
Once installed, this extension adds a button to the right of the address bar that allows you to choose from eight browsers and mobile operating systems. After selecting one of them, you will be offered several browser versions it supports. Clicking on any will change your user agent.
The only downside to this extension is that it currently supports very few user agents. For example, your iOS capabilities are limited to iPhone 6 and iPad (for which they don’t provide a specific generation).
Firefox: User-Agent switcher and manager
This add-on was recommended by the Firefox team and has around 200,000 users behind it.
The User-Agent Switcher and Manager is much more reliable than the Chrome alternative described above and supports dozens of additional browsers and operating systems, each offering many more user agents. Currently 738 user agents are supported.
Instead of just displaying device names or browser versions, this add-on will display the full user agent string. Alternatively, you can install your own custom user agent.
As mentioned earlier, changing the user agent is not a guaranteed way to achieve the expected effect. Web servers have ways to work around this line to determine how you are browsing. But they rarely get there.
Changing your browser’s user agent is harmless and the easiest way to do it!