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A user proxy is any piece of software designed to retrieve, render, and facilitate a user’s interaction with web content. These can include web browsers, web applications, media players, or certain plug-ins needed to allow a person to access a specific type of content and interact with it.
The most common user agent most consumers know to interact with are, of course, the browsers, like Google Chrome, Firefox, Opera, or even Internet Explorer. Below, you can access a quick rundown of why user agents are an important factor to consider when it comes to web design and development.
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HOW USER AGENTS WORK
When a person uses a browser to connect to a website, this action includes a user agent field in its HTTP header. Each browser will have a distinctive user agent, used as a way to let a web server know what type of software is used to access the web content.
But why would the server need to know that?
Well, different browsers and operating systems can behave differently, and because of that, it can cause some issues in how the user is able to access the content, leading to problems in user experiences. With the help of user agents which a browser sends out, the web server is able to show the web pages on different browsers, and different operating systems without issues.
Essentially, it’s how a server knows to show a mobile version of a website when the person is using a mobile device.
A user agent string on Chrome for Android, for instance, looks something like this:
Mozilla/5.0 (Linux; <Android Version>; <Build Tag etc.>) AppleWebKit/<WebKit Rev> (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/<Chrome Rev> Mobile Safari/<WebKit Rev>
Here’s a quick breakdown of the main elements of this string:
Mozilla – used in most user agents to ensure all devices and browsers and compatible;
WebKit – the rendering agent used by Chrome;
KHTML like Gecko – an additional line used for compatibility purposes to ensure access to pages designed for Gecko, a rendering engine developed by Mozilla.
Thanks to this string, an Android phone can access a webpage or other web-based content without trouble, allowing the users to fulfil their informational, navigational, or other needs they may have.
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