Blocking Browsers – Good Idea?

Blocking browsers has been a topic of discussion ever since somebody had the bright idea of blocking IE because of its failure to adhere to the proper standards. More recently, Firefox started to be blocked from a select number of sites because the site owners are against the add-on Adblock Plus. Regardless of the reason, is it ever a good idea to block a browser?

How They Do It

As we all know, people have a choice of what browser they want to use when surfing the Internet. Those include Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, Netscape Navigator, and many others. When each browser surfs the Internet, the browser sends its User Agent to the server before it receives the page. This is so the server knows what browser and platform the user is on in case it needs to format the page specially for that browser. For example, my User Agent is:

Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv: Gecko/20061201 Firefox/ (Ubuntu-feisty)

From that I can determine that my operating system is Linux (for the i686 processor), but more importantly for this topic, I am using Firefox version With this information, they are able to determine what browser you have and serve you the appropriate page, or might decide they don’t want to serve you the page at all.

Is it right?

To put it bluntly, no. In my opinion, it is never right to block a visitor based on the browser they are using.

Effects on site:
Obviously, you are cutting a portion of the Internet users from your site. Most people would take all the traffic they can get, so blocking a browser would be an example of turning away traffic – which is bad.

Effects on end user:
Look at it from an end-user’s standpoint. Do you really want to open up your Firefox browser only to find that it’s blocked because of stupid add-ons that Firefox does not even endorse? Then open IE and go to another site where you are blocked again because they say IE doesn’t follow standards? And finally using Opera on another site, but your blocked yet again because they took the name of the webmaster’s second daughter? No Internet end-user is going to want to have half a dozen browsers open at once just because of the webmaster’s personal preference on what they think their visitors should use to view their site.


I have considered blocking IE once because of all the extra work it takes getting the site to work in IE, but I later realized that it’s not the visitors fault, and it will be them that will be going through the inconvenience of switching to a different browser. They will most likely leave the site and never come back.

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2007 at 12:21 pm and is filed under Internet. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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