As a new Linux user, one of the first things you’re likely to discover during your daily Web browsing is a small number of sites which refuse to let you in because you aren’t using Internet Explorer. Today I’m going to show you how you can deal with sites such as this.
Most Linux users use the excellent Firefox web browser for their daily Web browsing, and this is what I’ll be covering here. Firefox, unlike Internet Explorer, is a standards-compliant browser, and one of the amazing things about Firefox is that it’s extensible. You can download and install extensions which add features to Firefox — only the features you want and need.
But some poorly trained Web developers intentionally block out people who don’t use Internet Explorer, even when their sites work perfectly well with Firefox. Gap.com is one such site, and I’m sure there are many others.
A Firefox extension is available for you which lets you get in to sites like this. Named User Agent Switcher, its purpose is to cause Firefox to identify itself as Internet Explorer (or almost anything else) when you visit one of these Web sites.
After you install it and restart Firefox, you’ll have a new item on your Tools menu, called User Agent Switcher. Whenever you want to visit a site that blocks out Firefox users, go to Tools » User Agent Switcher and then select Internet Explorer 6 (Windows XP) from the menu. Then reload the page you were going to, and you’ll get in.
Once you’re done with the site, though, you should turn User Agent Switcher off, by going back to Tools » User Agent Switcher and then select Default. This way, other sites know you’re using Firefox, and the web developers of those sites know not to design sites that block you out if you aren’t using Internet Explorer.
If you want, you can also add a User Agent Switcher icon to your toolbar, by choosing View » Toolbars » Customize and then dragging the User Agent Switcher icon (it looks like a gray Earth) to wherever you want it. I personally have placed it between the Go button and the search box. Whenever you are faking out your user agent, the earth will be in color; otherwise it will be gray.
Finally, if you run across a site that blocks out non-Internet Explorer users, you should complain loudly to them about being locked out, and also consider doing your shopping elsewhere if they continue to lock you out. Remember that companies pay attention to their bottom line, and the idea of losing even a few percent of their revenues could be enough to get them to begin paying attention to Web standards.